Friday, July 31, 2009

Garden News

Emmett--Locals are buying more and more food from fruit and vegitable stands in Emmett, thats a trend shared across the United States.

Most produce in the US is picked 4 to 7 days before being placed on supermarket shelves, and is shipped for an average of 1500 miles before being sold. Only 18 cents of every store bought dollar goes to the grower; 82 cents go to various unnecessary middlemen. Cut them out of the picture and buy your food directly from your local farmer. Its the opinion in Emmett, Idaho that truck farms are here to stay.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Just in from Washington

Minnick Concerned Over Cost of Healthcare Reform

Washington--Health reform is still alive in the House again after conservative Democrats struck a deal with party leaders Wednesday that would lower costs and ease requirements on small businesses.

But Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, remains unsatisfied and, unless more changes are adopted, he plans to buck his party and vote against the bill this week in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

"“I am disappointed by the actions announced today. Although I commend my colleagues for convincing leadership to push back to September a vote of the full House, I remain deeply concerned over many of the provisions in the House health care bill. My objections grow with each page of the bill I read. It would add billions to our deficit, which is already out of control, and does not do nearly enough to get better health care to places like rural Idaho."

His list of objections is similar to many Republican concerns. He said the proposal gives the federal government too much power and does too little to reform medical-malpractice claims.

“I spent three decades running everything from a small garden store to a multi-national forest products company. So I understand all too well how frustrated people are with the high cost of insurance. However, I ran for Congress in part because I was so frustrated with out-of-control spending and trillion-dollar deficits. We must get that under control, and that means reforming health care in a responsible, fiscally sound way.

Minnick is a member of the Blue Dog Democrats, a coalition of fiscal conservatives who have threatened to team with Republicans to kill the proposal.

“Like most Americans and like the President, I believe that health care reform must reduce costs, rely on the private sector, prevent restrictions based on age or employment status or preconditions, and must ensure coverage for all Americans. However, this bill simply will not get us there.”

Seven Blue Dogs sit on the commerce committee and four agreed to Wednesday's deal, enough to secure passage out of the panel. A full House vote won't take place until September at the earliest.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rodeos and County Fairs are underway across Idaho

Council--The Adams County rodeo wrapped up this past weekend in Council, its rodeo and fair season across Idaho, The Canyon County and Malheur County fairs are underway in SW Idaho. The Gem County Fair starts up this weekend.

Tour goers get a hands on look at organic potatoes at the Kimberly Researchs Station. Jen Miller photo

Organic Field Day a Success

Kimbery--Tour goers inspect organic potatoes grown with different organic nitrogen sources, as part of University of Idaho Extension Soil Specialist Amber Moore's research at the Kimberly R&E Center on Tuesday.

At the field day University of Idaho researchers spoke about organic nutrient sources, cultivation, weed control, biological control agents for diseases, visual and olfactory attractants for insect control, as well as an organic potato varieties.

Busloads of Organic farmers and gardners from the Treasure Valley attended the day long event which also featured hands-on presentations on organic production methods at the 11-acre research site; now in its second year of certified organic production.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Blair Accepts Precision Ag Farmer of the Year

Blair Accepts Award

Springfield, Illinois--Robert Blair was awarded the Precision Agriculture Farmer of the Year by Paul Schrimpf of Meister Media at ceremonies held this past week in Springfield, Illinois.

Blair is not the typical Idaho dryland farmer. He cuts corners as much as he can, and uses high tech shortcuts to save money. Thats why got involved with Precision Agriculture.

Precision Ag is the concept of doing the right thing, in the right place, in the right way, at the right time. It requires using new technologies, like global positioning devices, aerial photos, and information management software to assess and understand gathered farm data. He told the crowd back in Illinois that its about productivity.

“We get a 10-percent increase in productivity just from the timing of an application; the proper placement can keep crops from drying up. So committing to these practices we’re spending less and producing more—we’ve seen as much as 10 percent, that’s huge,” said BlairIn addition to farming 1,500 acres of wheat, peas, lentils, garbanzos, alfalfa and cows, he taught the precision ag lab at the University of Idaho during the 2008 fall semester and has also started a precision ag business called PineCreek Precision.

The company is centered on Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) – small, autopilot-controlled planes (less than 20 pounds) that can be used to gather imagery. Blair, the first farmer in the United States to own and fly a UAS on his own farmland, decided to make a prototype airframe in 2008.

Today he is a national leader in the promotion of UAS for agriculture, and is the first person in the U.S. to file a petition to the FAA for commercial use. Not even Boeing, Lockheed, or other aircraft businesses or organizations had done that. He has traveled on his own dime to Washington, D.C. to try to make commercial UAS rules that are sensible for end users. He has spoken around the country at different venues on UAS use in agriculture.

Robert is a board member of the Idaho Grain Producers Association, Lewiston Chamber Ag Committee, U of I/WSU Legume Virus Project, Idaho Farm Bureau LASR Committee, Nez Perce County Farm Bureau President, CEO Coalition on Transportation member, Governor Otter’s Kitchen Cabinet (Advisory Group), IGPA Alliance for Rail Competition National Representative, and taught the precision ag lab at the University of Idaho.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Rodeo Steer Riding

Rodeo Steer Riding, originally uploaded by Steve's Photo Library.

Cowboy Cody Champion competing in the Jr. Steer Riding at the Adams County Rodeo, in Council, Idaho..

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Closed for remodeling

Closed for remodeling, originally uploaded by Jake Putnam.

The Massive remodel job on the Idaho Statehouse is now entering the 18th month. The two underground wings are completed and landscaped but the tedius work inside the rotunda, the offices and basement continues. Contractors say they narrowing the gap and they should meet their deadline in January 2010.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Canyon County Fair

Joe & Jessica, originally uploaded by Steve's Photo Library.

Caldwell--The Canyon County Fair is in full swing at the Fairgrounds in Caldwell. One of the highlights of the fair are the 4-H shows in the livestock barns.

Jessica Jackson of Middleton showed her prized tom turkey, Joe on Friday in the Poultry show. Joe and Jessica brought home the blue ribbon!

The purpose of showing is to teach kids about the livestock industry.
The show provides youths with experience that teaches skills and instills confidence while encouraging responsibility. The sale of livestock and poultry generates funds as a reward for training, grooming and showing the animals.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fair Season Underway in Idaho

Caldwell--The Canyon County Fair is underway at the Fairgrounds in Caldwell. Fairgoers this year better be ready for pie-eating contests, 4-H shows,kids, corn dogs and of course carnival rides not to mention fair food, animal and craft exhibits and entertainment. There is something for the whole family from the diaper derby to a Wild West Show to a Dutch-oven cookoff, and tonight 70's rock group America.

Steve Ritter hung out in the 4H barn, this is his report:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Just in from Washington

AFBF: Rushing Climate Bill Would be “Height of Folly”

Washington-- American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman today asked the Senate Agriculture Committee to take an active and aggressive role in the climate change debate, but cautioned committee members that rushing to pass such sweeping legislation would be a fundamental mistake.

“On a matter that could affect our nation for literally decades to come, it would be the height of folly to rush to judgment in a matter of days or weeks,” said Stallman.

Testifying before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Stallman encouraged members to analyze the issue closely, carefully and thoroughly. He also recommended that the committee improve climate change legislation so that it is as beneficial as possible for the agriculture industry.

Currently, the Senate is examining H.R. 2454, the House-passed climate change bill, which will serve as the basis for writing Senate companion legislation. AFBF is strongly opposed to H.R. 2454 for several reasons. As written, the bill would impose enormous costs on agriculture and other sectors of the economy; the cap-and-trade program would take effect whether or not competing nations like India and China adopted similar programs, meaning U.S. industries would have an incentive to locate overseas. It also provides no concrete alternative energy program, such as nuclear, to hold down energy costs; and, lastly, the measure would appear to have little or no impact on the climate, Stallman noted.

“Most recently, the administrator of EPA testified before the Senate that the H.R. 2454 would have a negligible impact on temperature by the year 2050,” said Stallman. “And virtually everyone agrees that the U.S. alone can’t solve the problem.”

AFBF contends that reducing carbon emissions must be a shared, global responsibility. Without other countries doing their part to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, H.R. 2454 will never work. Stallman noted that while the United States may be a large emitter of GHGs, if emissions are measured based on unit of output, the U.S. is one of the cleanest producers. The effect of HR 2454, Stallman pointed out, would be to punish environmentally sound practices while letting others off the hook.

“A ton of GHG emitted in China is the same as a ton of GHG emitted in Virginia,” said Stallman. “Regulating emissions in Virginia without regulating emissions in China will have little or no effect on the environment.”

AFBF also maintains that an agricultural offsets program administered by the Agriculture Department is an essential cost containment measure, but revenues from offsets will only partially defray increased costs and not all agriculture sectors will benefit from offset opportunities.

“Inclusion of an offset program is not the complete answer,” said Stallman. “Even with a robust agricultural offset program, the bill still does not make economic sense for producers because a number of sectors will be not able to participate.”

Participating in an offset program will depend to a great degree on where the producer is located, what he or she grows and if his or her business can take advantage of the program, Stallman noted. Not every dairy farmer can afford to capture methane. Not every farmer lives in a region where wind turbines are an option. Not every farmer can take advantage of no-till. And not every farmer has the land to set aside to plant trees, according to Stallman.

“Yet, these producers will incur the same increased fuel, fertilizer and energy costs as their counterparts who can benefit from the offsets market,” said Stallman.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Just in from Washington

USDA Upset with Drudge

Washington--The U.S. Department of Agriculture attacked a story that appeared on the popular 'Drudge Report' Website on Tuesday. The USDA called the report 'a misleading criticism' of federal stimulus spending. The Agency clarified that the government did not spend $1,191,200 for one two-pound ham.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack released a pointed statement in response to the website posting that claimed that the USDA bought a 2 pound frozen ham, sliced for $1,191,200.

"Press reports suggesting that the Recovery Act spent $1.191 million to buy '2 pounds of ham' are wrong," Vilsack said in the statement. He explained the description of "2 pound frozen ham sliced" referred to the packaging size and that the USDA in fact purchased 760,000 pounds of ham for $1.191 million, at a cost of approximately $1.50 per pound.

The bulk ham purchase is for food banks, soup kitchens and other local organizations that help the needy through the state-run Emergency Food Assistance Program.Vilsack added, "While the principal purpose of these expenditures is to provide food to those hardest hit by these tough times, the purchases also provide a modest economic benefit of benefiting Americans working at food retailers, manufacturers and transportation companies as well as the farmers and ranchers who produce our food supply."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dairy News

Market Down, Milk Production Down

Boise--Idaho milk production dropped in June to 1.04 billion pounds, a 0.9 percent decline from the same month last year, and down 1.7 percent from May 2009, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

“There is no doubt that the current economic situation has been disastrous for the dairy industry and in the short term we will likely see more producers exiting the industry. A sign of distress is the herd liquidation that is beginning to occur and this has started to affect milk supply," said Economist Bob Smathers of the Idaho Farm Burea.

May 2009 milk production was revised to 1.06 billion pounds, up 9 million pounds from the preliminary level. Average milk production per cow in June 2009 was 1,880 pounds, down 20 pounds from June 2008. The average number of milk cows during June was 552,000 head, down 1,000 head from the revised May 2009, but up 1,000 head from June 2008.

"On the positive side," said Smathers, "A lower milk supply and projected higher domestic demand will likely raise prices toward the end of 2009 and beyond and this will help those producers that can hold on. But it is still speculation at this point as to how much prices will increase over the next 12 months.”

Milk production in the top 23 dairy States last month 14.7 billion pounds, down 0.1 percent from June 2008. May revised production at 15.5 billion pounds, was up 0.5 percent from May 2008. The May adjustment showed an increase of 46 million pounds or 0.3 percent from last month's preliminary production estimate.Production per cow in the 23 major States averaged 1,746 pounds for June, 10 pounds above June 2008. The number of milk cows on farms in the 23 major States was 8.44 million head, 56,000 head less than June 2008, and 29,000 head less than May 2009.

According to the Cattle Network, The normal seasonal decline in milk production and the seasonal strong fall sales of dairy products will strengthen milk prices in the months ahead. But, milk production may need to fall 2 to 3% below year ago levels to get the milk price at a level to stop the financial stress now being experienced by dairy producers. That means the Class III price needs to get to at least the $15.00 to $16.00 range. This may not happen until 2010.

Monday, July 20, 2009

U of I Organic Field Day in Kimberly

University of Idaho to Showcase Organic Research

Kimberly, Idaho — A field day highlighting organic research underway at the University of Idaho’s Kimberly Research & Extension Center will be held Tuesday, July 21. Registration begins at 9:00 a.m., with the tour of the organic field commencing at 9:30 a.m. The event concludes with lunch.

Organic farmers and the public are invited to attend.

The field day will feature a variety of organic production methods, and their use on the 11-acre research site, in its second year of certified organic production. This year, the researchers are growing winter wheat,potatoes, and dry beans.

The field day includes seven University of Idaho researchers speaking about their studies of organic nutrient sources, cultivation and meals for weed control, biological control agents for diseases, visual and olfactory attractants for insect control, as well as an organic potato variety and storage trial.

Registration costs $10 and includes lunch. Interested persons should RSVP by
July 17 to Jennifer Miller at (208) 850-6504 or

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Idaho Beef Month

The Idaho Beef Council offers tips for a delicious and healthy barbeque season

Boise--The majority of Americans are eager to gain grilling expertise to help tame the flame this summer. Only 11 percent of beef lovers claim they are a “master of the grill,” while 61 percent say they don’t go beyond the basics and wish they knew more, according to a recent survey conducted by IPSOS Public Affairs for the Beef Checkoff Program.

“Grilling is a low-fat and healthy method for cookout staples like lean and juicy top sirloin steak,” Chef Dave Zino, executive director of the Culinary Center for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said. “Lean beef is not only an American favorite, but it’s a delicious addition to your healthy grilling menu. For a healthful and flavorful meal, use a medium heat setting and avoid charring or burning food when you grill.”

As Americans continue to fire up their grills this summer, now’s the time to brush up on the steps to delicious and healthy grilling:

Opt for lean, well-trimmed cuts of meat to prevent fire flare-ups and excess smoke formation.
Trim any remaining visible fat, and choose lean cuts of meat, such as one of the 29 beef cuts that meet government guidelines for “lean.”
Traditional favorites like flank steak, tenderloin, 95 percent lean ground beef patties and T-bone steak are all lean cuts, meaning they have less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 3½ -ounce serving.

Marinate meat for added flavor and tenderness.
Inherently less tender beef cuts such as shoulder steak, eye round steak, top round steak, skirt steak and flank steak are more affordable, but require a tenderizing marinade before cooking.
To make a taste bud-tantalizing, yet simple and tenderizing marinade, use an acidic ingredient like lemon or lime juice, balsamic vinegar or wine or a natural tenderizing enzyme found in fresh ginger, pineapple, papaya and figs. Many ready-to-use marinades offer a variety of delicious flavors such as teriyaki, jerk, chipotle and mesquite.

Using marinades with little or no sugar may help protect meat from charring.
Before grilling, remove meat from marinade and pat dry with a paper towel to promote even browning and prevent steaming.
For best results when using a glaze or sauce that contains sugar, baste during the last few minutes of grilling to obtain the best flavor and avoid burning or charring.

Turn beef occasionally for even cooking and browning.
Use a spatula to turn burgers and tongs to turn steaks and kabobs.
Do not press, flatten or pierce the meat as flavorful juices will be lost, which can also lead to fire flare-ups. Cut off any burnt or charred pieces before eating should minimal overcooking occur.

Pair fruits and vegetables with grilling favorites to reap even more nutrition benefits.
Many people fall short of the MyPyramid recommendations to eat 2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables daily. Try pairing produce with a favorite protein such as lean beef to help get more fruits and vegetables into your meal and meet MyPyramid recommendations.

For your next barbecue, try zesty nutrient-rich beef kabobs with fruit salsa. Simply thread cubes of top sirloin, red peppers, red onions, pineapples and cherry tomatoes on a skewer, and grill to your desired doneness. Serve with a fruit salsa combining diced mangos, strawberries and green onions with a pinch of cilantro and a splash of lime juice.

Try topping summertime salads with thinly sliced grilled flank steak for a nutrient-rich, satisfying and affordable meal.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

U.S. Consumers Deserve Safe, Wholesome Food

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 16, 2009—Adequate funding, increased education and training for inspectors, development of rapid testing procedures and tools, and compensation for producers who suffer marketing losses due to inaccurate government-advised recalls are critical considerations as the federal food safety system is evaluated,
according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Testifying today on behalf of AFBF before the House Agriculture Committee, Larry Wooten, president of the North Carolina Farm Federation, said, “The nation’s food safety system must have the resources, authority and structural organization to safeguard the health of American consumers against foodborne illness. Evaluating food safety laws to determine whether they have kept pace with significant changes in food production, processing and marketing…and the growing volume of imports is a priority for agriculture and the food industry, as well as government.”

The U.S. currently imports food from more than 150 countries through more than 300 ports.

“As the supply chain gets longer, there are more opportunities, both accidental and intentional, for the introduction of public health threats,” Wooten said.

He noted that the number of people involved in preparing the food Americans eat has increased over time. With approximately 50 cents out of every retail food dollar spent on food and meals eaten outside the home, the need for adequate training of foodservice workers is more important than ever.

Although farmers and ranchers do understand the need for continuous food safety improvement, Wooten said, “the farm-level impact on producers must be considered in any new food safety regulations or legislation.”

Commenting on the Food Safety Enhancement Act (H.R. 2749), Wooten also expressed strong concern regarding provisions that would expand the Food and Drug Administration’s authority to include regulation of on-farm production activities.

“Farms are explicitly included in extensive recordkeeping, reporting and traceability measures which may not be feasible or practical for many producers,” Wooten explained. Such measures also are likely to impose significant costs on food producers.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Dairy News from the MPI

Minimum Wage Goes up July 24th

Boise--Idaho’s minimum wage, currently $6.55 per hour, will rise to $7.25 per hour on July 24 as part of a three-step increase in the federal minimum wage approved by Congress in 2007. Idaho ties its minimum wage to the federal one, rather than setting its own; many of the surrounding states, have higher minimum wages.

Idaho Department of Labor spokesman Bob Fick said the three-year boost “has combined with the dampening effect of the national recession to actually give minimum wage workers a boost in buying power for the first time in over a decade.”

Before the start of the three years of increases, Idaho’s minimum wage – since 1997 – had been $5.15 an hour. Today, that is equal to $7.05 per hour – so the July increase will actually increase minimum-wage workers’ buying power above where it stood in 1997. About 40,000 Idaho workers will be affected by the July 24 pay hike, twice as many as were affected by the two earlier ones, to $5.85 in 2007 and to $6.55 in 2008.


Boise--Beef lovers – it’s time to celebrate. Whether it’s the All-American hamburger or a thick steak fired up on the grill, this is the season of outdoor activities and backyard barbecues. Not only that, in recognition of the significant contributions the beef industry makes to Idaho and the important role of beef in the diet, July has been declared Idaho Beef Month by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter.

Idaho beef producers are committed to providing wholesome, nutritious, safe and delicious beef for consumers. They are proud of their role in feeding our nation. That’s why, through their Beef Checkoff Program, Idaho beef producers are celebrating Idaho Beef Month in July. Beef Month, coordinated by the Idaho Beef Council, promotes consumer awareness of beef’s versatility, nutritional value and economic contributions to Idaho.

2009 marks the 8th annual month-long celebration. Plans for this July include Idaho Beef Night promotions with the Idaho Falls Chukars and Boise Hawks minor league baseball teams, a Grill Master Beef BBQ Challenge and contest with Broulim’s grocery stores throughout Eastern Idaho, and a free beef giveaway at each performance of the Snake River Stampede Rodeo, along with a consumer advertising campaign.

In addition, the Idaho Beef Council encourages all beef lovers to celebrate Idaho Beef Month by enjoying their favorite beef dishes. And, to help consumers enjoy beef this month, the Idaho Beef Council is offering a new brochure Thrill of the Grill to anyone who would like a copy. The brochure features mouthwatering beef recipes, beautiful color photos, tips for cooking the perfect burger and steak, and a chart that includes both charcoal and gas grilling guidelines to assure foolproof results whatever your grilling choice – steaks, burgers or kabobs. To obtain your free copy, contact the Idaho Beef Council at or (208) 376-6004.

Beef remains extremely popular with consumers and is the number one protein in America according to USDA consumption data. Plus, beef is a top food source of protein, zinc, and vitamin B-12 in the American diet. Today’s beef is leaner than ever. Many cuts you find at the grocery store today are 20% leaner than they were 15 years ago. Twenty-nine cuts of beef qualify as “lean” under government labeling guidelines including 10 of the top 12 most popular cuts, such as Sirloin and T-bone steaks, Tri Tip and 95% ground beef.

Cattle production is big business in Idaho generating $1.09 billion in cash receipts from cattle and calves during 2007. There are currently 2.23 million head of cattle on Idaho farms and ranches valued at approximately $2.83 billion.

Additionally, Idaho is a significant contributor to our nation’s strong beef industry. The state ranks 11th nationally in inventory of cattle. In January 2008, there were 95.4 million cattle in the United States.

For more information on beef or the beef industry, contact the Idaho Beef Council at (208) 376-6004 or visit us online at

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Just in from Washington

AFBF Task Force Makes Budget Recommendations

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2009---The federal government must learn to live within its means. That strong message was conveyed Wednesday to the American Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors by an internal committee created to analyze the national deficit. The AFBF committee, known as the Federal Deficit Task Force, made a set of recommendations for Farm Bureau members to consider as they formulate policy for 2010.

“We must get control of federal borrowing before it consumes us, before other countries decide to stop lending and while we can get control of the problem,” said Craig Lang, chairman of the task force and president of Iowa Farm Bureau.

The primary objective of the task force was to recommend ways to achieve a balanced federal budget by 2019. The task force looked at all parts of the budget, including healthcare and Social Security, from the congressional budget process to government revenues. The task force consisted of eight Farm Bureau members, four older representatives and four from the Young Farmer and Rancher program. The committee has been meeting since last December.

“We wanted a sense of how the problem was viewed by a range of people,” said Bob Stallman, President of American Farm Bureau Federation.

While analyzing the nation’s deficit, the task force cited increasing healthcare costs as a major impediment to balancing the budget. “The real 800-pound gorilla for future budgets is health care,” Lang said.

The group recommended the AFBF policy process look at cutting healthcare spending by: implementing a centralized source to coordinate medical records, utilizing incentives for results (not procedures), preventive care, shortening hospital stays and limiting government sponsored coverage to only necessary and cost-effective procedures.

To accomplish the health care objectives the committee recommended policy discussions considering a program which would provide each citizen with a voucher sufficient to purchase a bare-bones, private health insurance policy. Such health care vouchers could be used only for insurance plans that incorporate reforms necessary to reduce the growth in health care costs. To encourage innovation, voucher financing would be determined on a regional basis, noted Lang.

After analyzing the complex healthcare issue, the group determined that solving Social Security was actually a more manageable problem that can be resolved by considering three measures: raising the normal retirement age and indexing eligibility to longevity, which would lower benefits or increasing trust fund revenues by removing the cap on taxable earnings.

“Social Security is a problem, said Lang. “While politically difficult, the solutions are more concrete than healthcare.”

The task force said there are really only two ways to balance the budget: lower spending or raise revenues, or some combination of the two. All programs outside of national defense should be under serious review and after reductions are made, consideration should then be turned to enhancing revenues, with any revenue generated going to lowering the deficit, not creating new programs.

The task force’s recommendations are concepts for consideration. They do not set or change AFBF policy.

“It is important to understand the information delivered by the task force is to inform members as they develop the organizations policy positions for 2010,” said Stallman. “We are a grassroots organization. Our members set our priorities.”

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

War in the West Editorial

Range War In the West
There is a range war in the West. Why should you care? Because wherever you live in America sooner or later it will affect you.
By Patrick Dorinson

There is a range war out West. And unless you live in Idaho or Nevada or any other Western state you probably have no idea what is happening or why should you care. But wherever you live in America you should care because sooner or later it will affect you.

This range war isn't about water rights or ranchers against homesteaders or big ranchers versus small ranchers like the Johnson County War in Wyoming in 1892. It is between ranchers who have worked the land raising cattle and sheep for over a century and environmental outlaws whose stated goal is driving them off the very land they need to survive and prosper. And this time the weapon of choice is not a Colt .45 or a Winchester rifle, but something much more deadly and destructive -- the lawsuit.

So what's the issue?

There are more than a quarter of a billion acres of public lands in the West. For over century a system has been in place to allow cattle and sheep ranchers access to portions of this land so that their animals can graze during certain times of year. Chances are that steak you throw on the BBQ spent some of its life on the range before being sold and sent to feedlots across the country to be fattened up to make sure that steak has some nice marbling.

Over the years there have been bitter disputes between ranchers and environmentalists over whether this practice should continue. For the ranchers this was not a philosophical discussion about the best use of the land or saving an endangered species. It was about their very survival and the survival of the cattle and sheep industries that contribute so much to the economies of many Western states. And this was not about keeping a few cowboys or sheepherders employed because there is an employment multiplier effect -- 1 ranch job creates 7 jobs to support the industry.

Recently, reasonable mainstream environmental and conservation groups like the Nature Conservancy have worked closely with the ranchers to find common ground that can address both the needs of this beautiful land while preserving a way of life that is an essential part of the West's past, present and future. Working together, the ranchers and the conservationists listened to each other and came up with plans to ensure the survival of both.

But some environmentalist outlaws like the Western Watersheds Project had no interest in compromise and since have used and abused the legal system of this country to deny the ranchers their rights and seeks to have the U.S. Government abrogate the legal contracts that allows them to use public lands for grazing.

This band of outlaws is led by a transplanted Easterner, Jon Marvel who some 30 years ago moved to Hailey, Idaho which is near the millionaire's playground of Sun Valley. He was an architect who designed huge homes for the rich and famous. He has designed over 200 homes near Hailey which has contributed to the sprawl now happening in that town. He says never designed a house over 7,000 square feet. Now that's one hell of a carbon footprint for a devoted environmentalist seeking to "protect" the range from the evil of cowboys and cattle!

He and his group have been known to be verbally and physically abusive to government officials who are only trying to do their job. In short they are not just environmental outlaws who operate outside the mainstream of environmental groups they are also bullies who use the tactics of intimidation not conciliation.

Well they must want something? Not really except to drive the ranchers out of business and let the land return to its pristine state when there were no cattle. I have news for Mr. Marvel, before the cattle even came to the West, huge herds of elk and buffalo roamed the plains and valleys for centuries and I'll bet they ate a little grass and tramped through streams.

Their tactic is to sue the federal government by challenging the rancher's permits on technicalities and also burying officials in a flood of FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests. It is estimated that just to fill the current requests it would take one person 6 years working full time. This means that trained range managers and scientists who should be working with the ranchers and other users of public lands are instead filling out paperwork. If you are a taxpayer you should be outraged.

I said earlier that even if you didn't live in the West this would affect you in some way. Eventually the price of beef would rise as there would be fewer cattle merging into the food supply.

But it might also put a severe crimp in the Obama administration's desire to upgrade the electricity grid, build new pipelines to carry the West's abundant natural gas to the rest of the nation and also take advantage of the wind corridors that dot the region by building wind farms and the arid deserts for solar farms.

It's already happening. Interior Secretary Salazar recently came to California to talk up building solar farms on public land near the Mojave Desert. But California Senator Dianne Feinstein is dead set against it, as are radical environmentalists. They've been complaining about lack of renewable energy for years and now that it might happen they suddenly develop a bad case of NIMBYism.


Because these hypocrites don't want any of that on public land either and you cannot achieve the president's energy goals unless ou use the vast public lands of the West. It is just not possible.

Finally you should care because this type of bullying and intimidation is just plain wrong. And it's hard to deal with folks who's only stated goal is to drive you out of business and destroy a way of life that has survived for over a hundred years against all the hardships that either man or Mother Nature can inflict.

So the next time you fire up the BBQ to grill your steak or hamburger just remember where it came from and the hard work that went into putting it on your plate. But also remember that if some folks get their way, next year it might cost a lot more.

Patrick Dorinsonis of Sacramento is a communications strategist specializing in political communications and government relations

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Miss Idaho Kara Jackson Addresses Summer Presidents Meeting

Miss Idaho Addresses the Presidents

Boise--Newly crowned Miss Idaho, Kara Jackson addressed the Idaho Farm Bureau Summer Presidents Meeting on Tuesday at the Red Lion Riverside Inn in Boise.

Jackson ran on a platform of Agriculture Literacy. "It's my goal to not only educate Idahoans about the importance of Agriculture, but the nation as well. I don't think Americans appreciate how much work it takes to get food from the farm to market. I want people to take an interest in food, our farms and this way of life," said Jackson.

Jackson was warmly recieved by the County Presidents, "I can't think of a better Ag ambassador than Kara Jackson, said Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley. Jackson says her platform is one of the most unique in the Miss America Pagent. "Agriculture affects every man woman and child in this country," said Jackson. "This is something I believe in."
Jackson grew up on a hobby farm in Ada County, Idaho. She was involved in 4-H and Future Farmers of America and showed animals as part of her 4-H projects as a child. "I grew to appreciate the hard work and dedication of our farmers, Im just giving a little of that appreciation back," said Jackson.

Sonke Attends PNWER

Don Sonke, originally uploaded by IdFarmBureau.

Boise--Ada Country President Don Sonke is attending the PNWER conference underway this morning at the Boise Centre on the Grove.
Sonke is interested in Cross-Border issues with Canada, Animal ID and trade.

Sonke thinks the Farm Bureau association with PNWER is needed to address energy and trade issues with Canada in the 21st century.

The Pacific NorthWest Economic Region (PNWER) is a regional U.S.-Canadian forum dedicated to encouraging global economic competitiveness and preserving our world-class natural environment. Its member states include: Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and the Yukon. PNWER is recognized by both the United States and Canada as the model for regional and bi-national cooperation because of its proven success.

PNWER is a respected voice and resource for the region, and provides the public and private sectors a cross-border forum for dialogue that capitalizes upon the synergies between business leaders and government who work to advance the region's economic strength and sustainability. To learn more visit

Summer Presidents Meeting at PNWER

Boise--Idaho Farm Bureau County Presidents are attending the PNWER Summit in Boise. The County Presidents are discussing everything from Homeland Security and Animal ID to energy and Cap and Trade issues.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer Presidents Meeting

Summer Presidents Meeting, originally uploaded by Jake Putnam.

Boise--Idaho Farm Bureau County Presidents attended a special barbeque with PNWER delegates at the Simplot Stables on Bogus Basin Road on Monday.

The Pacific NorthWest Economic Region (PNWER) is a regional U.S.-Canadian forum dedicated to encouraging global economic competitiveness and preserving our world-class natural environment. Its member states include: Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and the Yukon. PNWER is recognized by both the United States and Canada as the model for regional and bi-national cooperation because of its proven success.

PNWER is a respected voice and resource for the region, and provides the public and private sectors a cross-border forum for dialogue that capitalizes upon the synergies between business leaders and government who work to advance the region's economic strength and sustainability. To learn more visit

Summer Presidents Meeting at PNWER

PNWER President John van Dongen of British Columbia addresses the conference--Putnam photo
Farm Bureau County Presidents Meeting at PNWER Conference

Boise--The annual Idaho Farm Bureau Summer Presidents meeting has an added international twist this year, County Presidents are meeting with state, province and industry leaders gathered from around the Northwest.

"It's chance for us meet with our counterparts across the border," said State YR and R Chairman Chris Dalley from Blackfoot. Dalley sat in on the Cross Border Livestock discussion. "It's been interesting listening to what they're saying in Canada, they're pretty much in the same boat we are."

The Pacific Northwest Economic Region is hosting its 19th annual summit this week at the Boise Centre on the Grove. PNWER is the only forum for collaborative bi-national planning and policy development involving both the public and private sectors.

All week Representatives from Montana, Idaho, Washington, and the NW Canadian Provinces are addressing priority issues for the region including things like energy efficiency, water policy, invasive species, agriculture, not to mention cross border livestock issues.

"Idaho is committed to promoting better understanding and closer economic relations between Canada, our Pacific Northwest region and the United States," said Idaho Governor Butch Otter.

"The Pacific Northwest is one of the fastest growing regions in North America and the need for bi-national, regional advocates that work with both the public and private sectors is important in this economic climate."

President's Editorial

Defining “Sustainable Agriculture” Poses Challenges

Defining what sustainable agriculture means poses a significant challenge. But in spite of widely differing views, a group of conventional farmers, organic farmers, agribusiness officials and environmentalists recently opened a dialogue in an attempt to create a new sustainable standard.

The new National Sustainable Agriculture Standard would allow a “sustainable agriculture” label to be stamped on food similar to current organic food labeling. It could also create a system that rewards farmers for reducing the amounts of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides they use.

The components of this debate aren’t new to anyone close to agriculture or food politics. Putting labels on fresh and frozen meat and produce stirs controversy on many different levels. A strong lobbying effort from large meat packing companies effectively delayed implementation of country of origin labeling (COOL) of meat and fresh produce for the last six years. Now that COOL is finally in place, some grocery chains are using a label, especially on hamburger, stating the meat could come from as many as 10 different countries. We wonder how a label like that benefits consumers.

But getting back to what sustainable agriculture really means we believe this is an important debate, and everyone who cares about food and where and how it’s produced should form an opinion. One of the stickiest issues here is whether to allow genetically modified crops to carry the sustainable label. The 58-member standards committee initially used organic agriculture as a starting point and a preliminary draft of the standard prohibited genetically modified crops.

However, USDA and the American Farm Bureau Federation correctly opposed the language on the grounds that it would exclude 96 percent of domestic produce, meat and grains. Currently, only four percent of the domestic market is organic. In addition, genetically modified crops reduce the use of many pesticides, which should be a goal of sustainability. The new goal is to find a standard that makes room for any technology that increases agricultural sustainability.

Another interesting facet of this debate is that environmental groups have come under pressure to negotiate and look for compromises rather than utilizing their familiar tactics of propaganda and litigation. As with any business, in order to be sustainable, farms must be profitable. This fundamental often gets lost in the rush to regulate.

Over the last century American farms have demonstrated sustainability and experienced an incredible transformation. Size of farms and automation has dramatically increased while the number of people working on farms and the amount of acreage in production has drastically decreased. Label it any way you like, these are signs of a prosperous nation, sustained by agricultural production.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Alfalfa, originally uploaded by IdFarmBureau.

Caldwell--Idaho Farmers are cutting their second crop of hay this week across Idaho. Farmers lost a lot of the first crop due to inclimate weather, two weeks of dry weather have greatly helped harvest, but thunder showers today have caused problems in SW Idaho.

Advocate for Agriculture

Miss Idaho Promotes Ag Literacy
Parma--The newly crowned Miss Idaho, Kara Jackson is making good on her winning pagent platform, Jackson's chose the platform of Agriculture Literacy. She spent all day Wednesday on an Ag Tour of Canyon County. Jackson plans on promoting agriculture and educating the people of Idaho of where their food comes from.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Crop Outlook 2009

Conditions Point to Big Corn Crop, Lower Prices

WASHINGTON– Ideal growing conditions across much of the Corn Belt so far this summer point to the second-largest corn crop ever, which is bringing a bearish tone to the market, according to Terry Francl, senior economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The Agriculture Department released its July crop report and World Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) today. U.S. corn production was estimated at 12.29 billion bushels, the second-largest on record due to the second-largest plantings since 1946.

USDA forecasts the yield per harvested acre at 153.4 bushels per acre. If the favorable growing conditions continue, Francl believes the yield per harvested could meet or exceed the 160 bushels per acre set in 2004.

“Over much of the Corn Belt, we’re seeing cooler and wetter weather than normal. Corn is a grass, and it tends to grow rapidly in these conditions,” Francl said.

Today’s USDA report shows big gains to corn crop, supply and carryover estimates, which is giving a bearish tone to prices, Francl said. Corn prices are down 50 percent from the records set at this time last year.

“Corn farmers can expect more price volatility this year. A bearish mentality is still overriding the market. Prices could fall to $3.00 per bushel by harvest, and if we have a really good harvest, perhaps drop to the mid-to-upper $2.00 range,” Francl said.

“For soybeans, there was no significant change in the current year balance sheet, although the larger 2009 planted acreage implies that 2009/2010 ending stocks will go to 250 million bushels, more than double projected 2008/2009 ending stocks,” Francl said. “Soybean stocks will remain tight the remainder of this crop year, however.”

Friday, July 10, 2009

Potato news

Hail damages could cut into Potato Bottomline

IDAHO FALLS -Severe weather is taking it's toll on the 2009 Idaho Potato crop in Southeast Idaho. The United Potato Growers of Idaho says severe hail storms damaged fields across the region.

According to UPGI the hailstorms wiped out nearly 10,000 acres of potatoes. Acreage numbers are in but farmers are still asessing damaged crops while growers are trying to figure out what that means in losses and market conditions come harvest.

Co-op CEO Jerry Wright says they're monitoring damaged fields and some are making remarkable comebacks in the warm, moderate weather. Thousands of acres were hit from Pocatello to Ashton by four different hail storms over the past few weeks.

"We're seeing the wrath of Mother Nature right now. And we hope to get a good crop out of this season," said Wright. United says farmers are back in their fields and are doing what they can for damaged crops, some of the spuds can be sold to dehydrating processors.

The official potato count for this growing season is 315,000 acres across the state. That's up 3.9 percent over last year and demand is down nationwide on potatoes too much supply could hurt prices come harvest and into 2010.

Last year Idaho growers shipped one million more potato bags and ended up losing $30 million.
But more good news, United said the majority of the new acres are contracted by dehydrating companies and won't cause too big of a dent on potato prices.

"A lot will depend on how this crop turns out. We've had the wettest spring on record. We've had record hail unlike anything we've ever seen before. Both of those are going to affect the yield of the crop," said Wright.

The United Potato Growers of Idaho said this is the most accurate count ever done in the state.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Research Continues in Parma

U of I President Duane Nellis and Idaho Governor Butch Otter meet. Jake Putnam photo

Parma Research Center to Stay Open--For Now

PARMA — Gov. Butch Otter and University of Idaho President Duane Nellis announced Wednesday that they will delay the decision to close the Uof I Research and Extension Center in Parma.

That decision comes after Idaho Ag groups voiced opposition to the proposed closure. With a tight U of I Budget and even tigher state budgets the agriculture community wanted more time to come up with alternative funding.

Otter said he knows how important the research center is to Idaho agriculture but says budget issues must be addressed. "We've been working on cutting budgets all over the state," he said. "Part of that painful process is making difficult decisions."

The decision to delay closure came during the annual Treasure Valley Ag Tour, which had just come from a tour at the Parma research center.

"We decided yesterday to take a step back," said Otter. "We need to take a good look at what we need to do, how it's going to come out, I'm not prepared to say but we're committed to do the best job we can."

"We recognize the vital role and impact of agriculture in this state, and for the state's land-grant university," said President M. Duane Nellis. "Given the current budget situation, and my newness to the university, the governor and I agreed on the need to take additional time to conduct a more thorough review of the Research and Extension centers statewide."

The announcement came during a joint appearance at the university’s Parma Research and Extension Center.As part of the enhanced review, the university will assess the cost benefit, viability and impact of its statewide Research and Extension operation.

Simultaneously, the university will look at engaging the agricultural industry and others to partner collaboratively with the university to ensure the success of all its Research and Extension centers. Ongoing dialogue regarding the possible closure of two or more centers is the direct result of legislatively mandated budget reductions – a $3.2 million reduction in state funding for Agricultural Research and Extension Service for fiscal year 2010.Idaho is not alone in facing the possibility of significant restructuring in Agricultural Extension service. Oregon State, Utah State, Washington State and other universities with Extension missions are facing similar difficult situations and decisions.

Discussion about the University of Idaho Research and Extension centers began in January with state leaders and others with a stake in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and Idaho's agriculture industry. Conversations started in late March with a statewide committee whose 19 members represent diverse backgrounds and interests.

In addition, the university consulted widely with many of its partners in the agricultural community about what it faces and continues to welcome ideas about how to continue its research and Extension mandate in ways that can accommodate its challenging financial situation. This new review phase will build upon the foundational analysis and work of the earlier committee.

The Research and Extension centers operate on 4,000 acres statewide, including locations at Aberdeen, Caldwell, Dubois, Salmon, Hagerman, Kimberly, Moscow, Parma, Sandpoint, Tetonia and Twin Falls.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Milk Prices Decline

Washington--The anticipated dairy sell-off never materialized this quarter, that mean milk production has remained steady and could translate into prolonged low prices according American Farm Bureau economist Allison Sprecht. "So far we have seen only a modest decrease in cow numbers and no decrease in production."

Tracking Milk and Egg trends for the second quarter of 2009, shoppers reported the average price for a half-gallon of regular whole milk was $1.92, down 24 cents from the prior quarter.

The average price for one gallon of regular whole milk was $3.01, down 14 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 $3.18, down 1 cent from the last quarter and about 65 percent higher than the reported retail price for a half-gallon of regular milk ($1.92).

The average price for a half-gallon of organic milk was $3.63, down 8 cents compared to the first quarter and approximately 90 percent higher than the reported retail price for a half-gallon of regular milk ($1.92).Compared to a year ago (second quarter of 2008), the retail price for regular milk in gallon containers decreased by 22 percent while regular milk in half-gallon containers decreased 20 percent.

The average retail price for BST-free milk dropped about 5 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 1 percent in the second quarter of 2009 compared to a year ago.For the second quarter of 2009, the average price for one dozen regular eggs was $1.34. The average price for “cage-free” eggs was $3.00 per dozen, around 95 percent more per dozen than regular eggs.Regular eggs and “cage-free” eggs dropped in retail price by 26 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively, between the second quarter of 2008 and the second quarter of 2009.

"Obviously, it is going to take a cut in production to improve the price situation. Producers will have to hunker down for at least a few more months of depressed prices; however, producers may begin to increase culling after the recent CWT announcement," said Sprecht

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Farm Bureau Marketbasket Survey

Nationwide, Food Prices Trending Down

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 2, 2009—Retail food prices at the supermarket decreased slightly for the third 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 $46.29, down about 2 percent or $1.12 from the first quarter of 2009. Of the 16 items surveyed, 10 decreased, five increased and one remained the same in average price compared to the prior quarter.

Russet potatoes, boneless chicken breasts, eggs, sliced deli ham and whole milk declined the most in price and together account for most of the decrease in average price of the overall marketbasket. Russet potatoes dropped 29 cents to $2.76 for a 5-pound bag; chicken breasts dropped 28 cents to $3.10 per pound; eggs decreased 16 cents to $1.34 per dozen; sliced deli ham and whole milk dropped 14 cents to $4.80 per pound and $3.01 per gallon, respectively.
Other items that decreased in price were: ground chuck, down 12 cents to $2.82 per pound; sirloin tip roast, down 11 cents to $3.88 per pound; flour, down 9 cents to $2.42 for a 5-pound bag; bacon, down 7 cents to $3.19 per pound; and toasted oat cereal, down 5 cents to $2.86 for a 9-oz. box.

“The quarter-to-quarter price decline reported by our volunteer shoppers indicates that consumers are seeing some relief at the grocery store. Even more significant is that average retail prices for eggs, milk, chicken breasts and bacon for the second quarter of 2009 are significantly lower than one year ago,” said AFBF Economist Jim Sartwelle.

Overall, the average price for the marketbasket of foods declined $3.10 or about 6 percent over a year’s time. Retail egg prices dropped 26 percent, milk decreased 22 percent, chicken declined 19 percent and bacon was 11 percent lower compared to a year ago.

“The foods that declined the most in retail price are among the least-processed items in our marketbasket. When wholesale prices paid to producers for minimally processed foods such as these decrease drastically, as has been the case over the past few months, consumers typically benefit fairly quickly from retail price reductions in the grocer’s case,” Sartwelle said.

Several items went up slightly in price compared to the prior quarter: bagged salad, up 13 cents to $2.75 for a 1-pound bag; shredded cheddar cheese, up 7 cents to $4.31 for one pound; apples, up 6 cents to $1.41 per pound; vegetable oil, up 6 cents to $2.85 for a 32-oz. bottle; and orange juice, up 2 cents to $3.02 for a half-gallon. A 20-oz. loaf of white bread remained the same in price, $1.77.

AFBF’s second quarter marketbasket survey tracks closely with the federal government’s May 2009 Consumer Price Index report for all food, which showed a slight decline (-0.2 percent) for the fourth consecutive month.

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 $46.29 marketbasket would be $8.80.

AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, has been conducting the informal quarterly marketbasket survey of retail food price trends since 1989. The mix of foods in the marketbasket was updated during the first quarter of 2008.

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 82 shoppers in 33 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in May.

Monday, July 6, 2009


Robert Blair photo from Blair Farms
Fertilizer: Prices Going Up

Boise--Idaho farmers are in thick of the summer season but the threat of high fertilizer costs next year have many shopping around early.

The recently released results of a study from a global fertilizer industry organization show that even though a demand downturn has led to lower prices in the last few months, that demand is seen rebounding, sending prices back to levels that were familiar just a year ago. The International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA) recently released its Fertilizer Outlook 2009-2013 in which the group suggests, after the sudden fall in demand during the 2008-09 fertilizer campaign, a rebound may be expected for the 2009-10 campaign.

The world fertilizer markets experienced a period of extreme volatility in 2008, IFA officials say, as the combination of a global economic downturn and a deepening credit crisis in most leading fertilizer-consuming countries dampened short-term prospects. Fertilizer sales and import demand collapsed through the fourth quarter of 2008. World fertilizer consumption is estimated down 5.1%, from 168.1 million tonnes (Mt) of nutrients in 2007-08 to 159.6 Mt in 2008-09.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Healthcare in the Heartland

Government and Healthcare
By Bob Smathers

In the last 6 months, we have seen unprecedented government intrusion in the private sector in America. Government bailouts of banks and auto companies and talk of government mandated carbon taxes on companies that emit greenhouse gases is commonplace in the news. Congress is considering bills to expand the powers of EPA and the Food and Drug Administration by removing the word “navigable” from the Clean Water Act and by passing legislation called the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 (H.R. 2749) to increase food inspections and expand oversight by the FDA over food producers. The Obama administration is also looking for government to be a major player in the health care industry by proposing a public insurance option to compete alongside private insurance options. Some economists feel that this will spell the end of healthcare as we know it in the U.S.

This unprecedented government intrusion in the marketplace will likely grow in the United States unless the citizens stand up say “enough is enough.” Millions are up in arms about recent developments as we have seen by the “Tea Parties” that are being held across the country, but millions of Americans do not have a problem with the latest developments or are unaware of what’s going on. It makes one wonder how economically literate people are? Many seem to think that government takeovers are the answer, but history tells a different story. Do people know their history? Do they understand economics? Maybe the entitlement mentality has become so ingrained that we as a nation of free people have taken for granted those principles that our founding fathers fought and died for.

President Obama is proposing sweeping changes in healthcare. Some of the proposed changes are positive such as improving information availability by computerizing patient records, providing incentives for doctors and patients to pursue preventive care and expansion of medical education. These proposals will help lower the costs of healthcare. Other proposals are not so good such as a government-sponsored insurance option that would compete with private insurance options. Implementing this would put us one step closer to a single payer system, or a government administered system. Currently, there are an estimated 46,000 individuals (16% of our population), (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Survey, 2005) who are uninsured in the U.S. and this is being touted as the reason for nationalizing healthcare in the U.S. We already have a government sponsored health option for our elderly that is on the verge of insolvency.

It is a fact that innovation and entrepreneurship in the field of medicine has improved the well-being of our citizens beyond anything that could have been imagined 100 years ago. However naysayers in the U.S. have demonized the free-market suggesting that medical care costs have skyrocketed beyond the average taxpayers’ ability to pay, demanding government remedy. The reality though is that government intervention in the market place always stifles innovation and brings about scarcity. It is government policy that leads to most slowdowns in the economy through market interference. The foundation for the recent housing bubble was laid down by long-lived easy money policies enacted by the Federal Reserve Bank and government policy that encouraged Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to make mortgages available to millions of people who obviously could not afford them. Politicians who supported these policies are now shifting the blame for the mortgage crisis to the private sector.

The cost of medical care is high, but grossly overstated. Yes, Americans are paying more for medical care, but because of innovations and a free-market economy, they can afford to pay more and they have many more options available to them. Look how advanced the medical field is now compared to 50 years ago. In the 1960’s heart bypass surgery was not available at any cost. People died from blockages in the heart that can now be fixed. Other advances that were unheard of, or were in their infancy in the 1950’s were knee replacements, hip replacements, lumbar disk replacement, arthroscopy, MRI’s and the list goes on. People lived with severe arthritis and pain back then and died younger because of it. Now these developments and many other life saving procedures are performed routinely thanks to free market innovation in the medical field and we live longer!

Unfortunately, these incredible blessings in medical technology are being taken for granted because claims that medical costs have increased have convinced voters that the free market system has failed to provide acceptable medical care. The free-market opponents have somehow gotten the ear of the public and convinced them that because they are paying more for their medical care that it costs substantially more. People are confusing to some extent the increased spending on their health care with the costs of care. In reality, free markets have increased individual wealth, increased vastly the number of medical procedures available to individuals, and made medical care worth more than any other time in history. Yes, costs have increased, but so have the medical options that people have available to them.

The fact that 16 percent of our population is uninsured and do not have access to adequate medical care is a problem, but this problem doesn’t warrant turning our healthcare system upside down and socializing it. Socialization will bring about scarcity and discourage innovation. All we have to do is look to our neighbors to the north to figure this one out. The Canadians have had a government administered healthcare system for years now and yes, access to healthcare is the same for all Canadian citizens regardless of their ability to pay, but scarcity and innovation is a major problem and so is their ability to keep doctors. Many of their young doctors are educated in the U.S. and some choose to stay in the U.S. and the most obvious reasons are higher compensation and less bureaucracy. Canadian healthcare works great from the standpoint that it is available to all regardless of their ability to pay, but the waiting lines are long. The Canadian system provides good routine healthcare, but breaks down for specialized care. For example, the wait for hip and knee replacement surgery is a few months in the U.S., but can take 1 to 2 years in Canada. Is this the kind of healthcare we want? It’s no secret that Canadians who can afford it, travel across the border to the U.S. for specialized care.

What then can be done for the uninsured? Government can help lower the costs of medical care by providing incentives, but a public insurance option that will compete with private plans is not a good thing. Hospitals need to lower their costs for the un-insured and so do doctors. Government could offer tax credits for those who cannot afford insurance in an attempt to get them on insurance plans. There are options that should be looked at before letting the government turn our health-care system upside down.

Has the free market really failed the health care industry or has government failed it? This is the question that people need to be asking. The foundation for what is going on in the healthcare industry was laid down by government policy. Because so many in the U.S. are insured, or covered by Medicare, patients are divorced from the true cost of healthcare. Patients do not pay the true cost of their healthcare, they only pay a portion of the cost through their insurance plan or Medicare plan, so the incentive to economize is not there. Medicare and private health insurance plans create this diseconomy problem, but this is a subject for another article.

Bob Smathers is a the North Idaho Regional Manager for Idaho Farm Bureau, and is a former U of I Economist

Friday, July 3, 2009

Family Farming

A Family that works together...
Melba--The Christensen's of Melba irrigate corn, and its a family affair. All the Christensen kids help irrigate every morning, all summer.

With summer days back in the 90's the crops are drinking up the water, but supply is more than adequate this season. Mike Christensen and family were named Canyon County Farm Family of the Year, you can see a video honoring them at the Canyon County Far coming up later this month.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Climate Control Bill Moves to the Senate

Climate Control Bill to get Capitol Hill Cooling

Washington--The American Farm Bureau thinks the Climate Control Bill that narrowly passed the House will see a cooling off period in 2009.

"We don't anticipate that it will pass the Senate this year," Farm Bureau lobbyist Mary Kay Thatcher told Agriculture Online.

The Senate will soon consider President Barack Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, not to mention health care reform. With an already full agenda, and opposition from rural areas, Thatcher thinks a vote on climate change legislation is unlikely this year.

Farm Bureau applauds the efforts by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Colin Peterson to get USDA, not the EPA, to run the trading of carbon credits that farmers might sell to industries that emit greenhouse gases. But the group still opposes climate change legislation, viewing its costs as higher than potential benefits.

Farm Bureau doesn't believe a carbon credit trading program would provide enough income to counter expected higher costs for fuel and fertilizer, even if the Senate makes improvements in the bill.

"It's hard for me to believe they could change it enough in the Senate to make agriculture a winner," Thatcher said. "True commercial agriculture is not going to be a winner in this thing."

Opinion of the Day

Costs Pile Up for Cap and Trade Proposal
Washington--On June 25, the House passed the Waxman-Markey climate stabilization act, that sets up a' cap-and-trade' system to restrict Americans’ carbon emissions. In the days after the 7-vote victory the hidden costs of the legislation are surfacing by the hour and showing faulty math.

Even the bluest economists have a hard time conceding American families would pay just a few hundred dollars a year in what amounts to a massive carbon tax. Some of the costs could be recovered in a carbon trade market, but the Obama administration has failed to take into account the basics of trade speculation. Theres no limit or even control on how much a carbon credit can be sold for (try buying a tickets to the Boise State-Oregon football game), it's supply and demand and speculators stand to make billions while many Idaho families will struggle to raise a few extra thousand dollars a year.

Representative Walt Minnick told Dan Popkey of the Idaho Statesman that he opposed the bill, because the sale of pollution credits could be controlled by the aforementioned speculators who've put oil prices on a roller coaster.

The bill also penalizes hydroelectric production and doesn't do enough for nuclear power, Minnick said. "Nuclear has to be part of our solution in the near term. There is no way that other forms of green energy will come on fast enough, even with substantial subsidies, to put any measurable dent in our fossil-fuel production over the next 25 years."

MIT did a study last spring and estimated the cap and trade market would be worth $366 billion in revenue. That revenue would be paid by those who purchased the credits and then passed the cost along to the consumers in the form of higher prices for power, fuel, and manufactured goods. If you divide $366 billion by 300 million households, the cost per household is $3,128. That bill supposed the federal government would return a portion of the money to the consumers while keeping a portion for research on energy related technologies.

All said, there are lessons to be learned. Other countries have tried caps and trade and failed. Spain went cap and trade years ago and for every “green job” created, two regular jobs were lost. Also global warming has disappeared in the past year, and is now known as climate change. The reason is that the earth is not warming, at least not in a way caused by humans. Actually the planet has not warmed in 8 years. In fact, the EPA recently said earth is going to have a temperature decline for the next twenty years.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Climate Change Bill Passes by 7 votes

'Cap and trade' faces rocky road in Senate

Washington--While the House of Representatives passed the Climate Control bill by 7 votes, the legislation could find tougher opposition in the Senate.

The American Farm Bureau Federation opposes the bill because of potential impacts on the cost of fertilizer and gas, the Farm Bureau is also deeply concerned about the fairness of the cap and trade parts of the legislation, the U.S. farmer must have a level playing field when it comes to trade or they could go out of business.

Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas worries about the nation's economy. "They're only capping our emissions in the United States. This has no effect on the rest of the planet. So when the cost of doing business in the United States goes up, our competitors will have a tremendous advantage with their cheaper energy as we try to work with our more expensive energy.

"The Senate will take up its version of the energy bill, and I am confident that they too will choose to move this country forward," President Barrack Obama said on Monday. After the razor thin, 7 vote victory in the U.S. House Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he's hopeful that the Senate will debate and pass the climate bill later in the fall.

But Senator Lindsay Graham (S.C.) said on 'Meet the Press on Sunday that "this bill coming out of the House is going nowhere in the Senate." In a statement, Senate Agriculture Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) also said the House legislation "is not a perfect bill."

"Cap and trade" refers to a system of buying and selling pollution permits to meet emissions limits. The 1,500-page House bill aims to slash greenhouse-gas emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. By the middle of the century, it would cut emissions to 80% below 2005 levels.

The seven vote passage in the House "spells doom in the Senate," said Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

"Despite a large Democratic majority in the House, and the fact that this is one of the president's top priorities, the Democratic leadership was forced to do everything possible to get a bill passed," Inhofe said on Friday.

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...