Monday, August 31, 2009

AG Extension News

Essie Fallahi prepairs for the annual fruit field day in Parma. Steve Ritter photo

Parma--The University of Idaho's Parma Research and Extension Center will host its annual Fruit Field Day on Thursday, Sept. 3. The free tour generally draws about 500 people, from commercial growers to home gardeners, to learn about the center's fruit projects and check out new varieties of tree fruit and table grapes, professor Essie Fallahi said.

The field day begins with registration at 8:30 a.m. and concludes at 1 p.m. at the center, which is about a mile north of Parma at 29603 U of I Lane. For more information, call (208) 722-6701.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Novice Gardeners Become “Extreme” Gardeners, All in One Season
BOISE, Idaho—Although the growing season has lurched heartlessly from too cold to too hot, University of Idaho Extension educators say Idaho gardeners—even novices—haven’t yet turned lukewarm on growing their own produce.

“Our novices are having luck with many of the crops in their gardens, despite some early-season setbacks,” said Ariel Agenbroad, an Extension educator in Canyon County who taught “Idaho Victory Garden” classes this spring. “And the problems they are having are generally easy to avoid or correct next year.”

One such problem has been healthy, vigorous plants that aren’t putting on fruit. “People are saying, ‘I don’t have any tomatoes/corn/squash on my plants!’” said Agenbroad. “When it’s tomatoes, we look at too much nitrogen, too much shade or very hot temperatures. When it’s sweet corn or squash, the reason is usually poor pollination.”

Agenbroad advises gardeners to plant sweet corn in blocks, circles or mounds—rather than in solitary long rows—to ensure adequate pollination by wind. Squashes, which have separate male and female flowers, are a bit different: “If the flowers are not open at the same time—or if they’re open when insects aren’t active—you get tiny fruit that shrivels up or no set at all,” she said. “Be patient: eventually you’ll get plenty.”

But if gardeners hold out for baseball-bat size squash, they won’t hit their overall production out of the ballpark, Agenbroad cautions. “Frequently picking small fruit encourages more production. If you’re letting baseball bats develop, the plant puts its energy into those and doesn’t need to produce more.”

Agenbroad encourages gardeners who encounter blossom-end rot in tomatoes or bitterness in cucumbers to note which varieties they planted. “Both of these physiological problems are strongly linked to variety,” she said. “If gardeners report which varieties were most susceptible, we can pass that information on and suggest alternatives.”

In Lewiston, Extension educator Lydia Clayton says home-grown food production is “working out well” for novice gardeners. “They had a lot of questions, but they got answers to most of them,” she said.

Plant diseases have been unusually prevalent this year in north central Idaho, Clayton says. She advises gardeners to toss infected plants into the trash—rather than composting them—and to make sure remaining plants have good air circulation. Next year, Clayton plans to offer additional classes in pest—including disease—management for gardeners.

“Teaching gardeners is a lot of fun,” she said. “You get to watch people go from feeling nervous about growing plants to realizing that they are very good gardeners and can grow things they like to eat.”

In Sandpoint, Extension educator Mike Bauer suspects a surge in interest in older tomato varieties underlies an increase in such leaf-curling and stunting tomato viruses as cucumber and tobacco mosaics . “Older tomato varieties don’t have a lot of virus resistance bred into them,” he said. “The only thing you can do—like I had to do with my own plants—is to pull them out and start over with resistant ones.”

Still, Bauer said, “We’ve had a good summer, with sorely needed rain, and things have gone well for our beginning gardeners.” In fact, they’ve gone so well that large-scale community gardens are being well-tended. “Community gardens are a real barometer for how frustrated people can get—and people are sticking with them.”

To help area gardeners cope with one of their key frustrations, Bauer and his Master Gardeners have installed a deer-deterring demonstration garden at the Bonner County Extension Office, complete with a diverting sunflower “catch” crop, shimmering CDs and a scarecrow mounted on a motion-detecting sprinkler. With only light deer pressure in the demonstration garden, Bauer suspects a combination of these techniques could prove effective.

In the Magic Valley, Extension educator Jo Ann Robbins says what’s plaguing gardens the most is heat damage from gardeners’ inability to keep up with watering. “It’s been beastly hot,” she said. “I hope we have a nice, long, protracted fall, because tomatoes really thrive when temperatures are below 90 and evenings are cooler.” But Robbins reminds gardeners that, “Even if it’s cooler, everything needs to be well-watered because the plants are bigger and will be using lots of water.”

Wayne Jones, Extension educator in Bonneville County, says Idaho Falls-area gardeners hope they don’t see Jack Frost before late September. “Temperatures have been too extreme for tomatoes to set, and corn, squash and peppers are all late. If we luck out, we’ll get our crops.”

“It’s been a tough year for beginning gardeners,” Jones said, “but if they can beat the challenges and get a crop despite the weather we’ve had, they’ll be pleased with themselves.”

His tips for next year: “Plant as early as you possibly can” and use season-extending strategies in both spring and fall.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bonner County News

Sandpoint--The Bonner County Farm Bureau met in August. After the county board conducted its’ regular business, the main issues discussed were the Bonner County Fair booth, purchasing 4-H animals at the fair, and potential resolutions for the upcoming district resolutions meeting. A discussion on who to invite as a speaker at their annual meeting also took place and they decided to invite Miss Idaho Kara Jackson. The county also discussed the Monsanto Blackfoot Bridge Mine proposal.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Soft White, winter wheat

Soft White, winter wheat, originally uploaded by IdFarmBureau.
After Weather Delays Wheat Harvest Underway in Idaho's Upper Valley

Iona--The 2009 soft white winter wheat harvest is underway north of Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Doug Barrie of Iona, Idaho says this wheat will be shipped to Ogden, Utah where it will be used in the production of cookies.

County News

Photo by Carol Rust
Benewah County Active at Fair

St. Maries--The Benewah County Farm Bureau held a hotdog feed for the 4-H kids and their families the day before the fair started. Benewah County donates this service to 4-H families while they are checking their animals in. The county also sets up a booth at the fair to promote agriculture and the County Farm Bureau.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ritter watches the rake

Ritter watches the rake, originally uploaded by Jake Putnam.

Ashton--Steve Ritter spent the week on the road shooting YF and R and Women of the Year profiles. He and Jake Putnam visited the Barries in Iona, the Harshbargers outside of Ashton, and the Bagley's in Victor.

Ritter and Putnam will shoot 14 profiles between now and the annual convention in Idaho Falls the first week of December.

Doug Barrie checks moisture content of wheat

Grain Harvest Behind Schedule in Upper Valley

Iona--A series of weekend storms soaked Bonneville county over the weekend. In some places more than an inch of rain fell in just two hours. The storms brought the the 2009 wheat harvest to a screeching halt. Barrie reports today the combines are running and they're praying for sunny, hot days until they get the crop in. Like other upper valley farmers, Barrie reports record yields in his grain fields.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Brody Harshbarger works his second crop of hay

Late Summer Weather Slowing Harvest in Upper Valley

Ashton--In Fremont County outside of Ashton, Brody Harshbarger is rolling over hay after a week of rainstorms. This is Harshbarger's second crop. Barley and wheat are still too green to cut after falling two weeks behind because of a late spring. But Harshbarger reports that when harvest comes they'll have record yields.

Brody Harsbarger surveys his Barley crop on Tuesday outside of Ashton.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dairy News

U.S. Milk Production up, Idaho Production Down

Boise--July 2009 milk production in the 23 states for which USDA reports monthly was 14.9 billion pounds, 0.1 percent above July 2008. June revised production at 14.8 billion pounds, up 0.1 percent from June 2008 - this revision represented an increase of 34 million pounds or 0.2 percent from last month's preliminary production estimate.

Idaho's milk production is down 3.5 percent from July of 2008.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Canyon County News

Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) spent this past Saturday visiting the Vermeer Dairy, The Dixon and Christensen Farms. Left to right: Tom Schwarz, Minnick staffer for ag and Natural resources in Meridian office, Kent, Russ, Dave Dixon, Daniel Dixon, Derek Vermeer, Congressman Minnick, Mike Vermeer, Alicia Krantz, Canyon County FB President, Curt Krantz, Idaho FB State Board Member.
Ritter photo
Congressman Minnick Visits Canyon County Farms
Greenleaf--Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick is tired of briefing papers, in fact he's tired of paper. He told his staff this past week that he wanted to get his boots dusty, instead of hearing about farm problems from staffers, he wanted to hear it from farmers.
So Congressman Minnick showed up at David Dixon's farm just before noon on Saturday and sat down with a dozen Canyon County farmers for lunch under a big shade tree.

The first-term Congressman listened to Mike Vermeer's dairy farm problems. He told the congressman that immigration rules need overhauled, that the proposed rules could seriously hurt Idaho milk production. Minnick listened with interest.

Vermeer told Minnick that dairies are dependent on immigrants and unlike other ag-jobs where laborers are hired for short, seasonal stints, dairy-farm laborers will work for years. With high unemployment farmers are feeling the heat for hiring migrant labor. Without adequate workers some dairies could close, impacting rural economies. Dairy farmers like Mike Vermeer think the U.S. needs a foreign-guest worker program geared toward agriculture.

The dairy industry released a report earlier this summer finding that immigrants account for 40% of the dairy labor force and are responsible for almost two-thirds of U.S. milk production. Minnick expressed strong support for immigration enforcement, and one step further: thinks that undocumented immigrants already here should pay a penalty and get legal.

Just a year ago Minnick came to the Idaho Farm Bureau Summer President's meeting and told the county presidents that he was different, that if elected he would try and bring unbridled federal spending under control. Minnick won the 1st Congressional seat by just 4,000 votes. An upset victory considering the 1st CD went 67% for George W. Bush in 2004, and 61% for John McCain. The last time Idaho sent a Democrat to Washington was LaRocco back in the early 1990s.

Washington is a town where accusations are thick as flies on a manure pile--but Minnick likes some of the accusations he's getting tagged with...especially 'penny pincher', 'killjoy', and 'cheap skate'. "I grew up on a wheat farm and learned what the economics of what farming are, if you don't restict spending on things you absolutely don't have to have, particularly when times are tough; you can't survive. You can't survive in farming and the country cannot survive unless it adopts the same attitude."

Minnick's popularity continues to grow because he's stubbornly independent of House Democrats. The maverick is constantly outside his party looking in, some say he represents a dangerous rift in the age old concept of 'business as usual Washington.'
At the 2008 Summer President's meeting in Pocatello, Minnick declared himself a Blue Dog and “a fierce believer in limited government, fiscal responsibility and effective representation,” on the campaign trail he repeated the message to anyone that'd listened and got just enough votes to engineer the upset win over Sali.

The fiercely independent Minnick even went seperate ways with the Blue Dogs on spending and regulations. He was one of 11 House Democrats that voted against the $787 billion stimulus. He also passed on the Democrats 2010 budget resolution. In July he and 43 Democrats defected on the climate bill.

Congressman Walt Minnick hasn’t announced re-election plans but has raised just under $600-thousand in campaign cash for the 2010 election, including donations from high profile Republicans.

Salmon Recovery

Sockeye Salmon Returning to Redfish

Stanley--Hundreds of sockeye salmon are returning to the highest reaches of the Salmon River to Redfish Lake. In years past just a few fish have return to the Sawtooths, this year, some 452 have returned from the Pacific to the weirs near the mouth of Redfish Creek.

Last year 636 red fish returned, the back-to-back record runs comes on the heels of stepped up smolt production by Idaho Fish and Game, good streamflows and excellent ocean conditions.

The first two sockeye salmon of the 2009 season returned in July. Every day in August has seen the traps full of fish. In recent years 257 sockeye came back in 2000, which was the next highest return since 1985, just four sockeye came back in 2007. Between 1991 and 1998, 16 sockeye returned to Redfish Lake.

Biologist blame the decline of the Sockeye to over-fishing, mining, poisoning in the early days and the dams on the Columbia and lower Snake rivers between 1937 and 1975. Despite the obstacles they predict a run that could top the 700 mark by the beginning of September. The last two years Idaho Fish and Game biologists released between 150,000 and 175,000 sockeye smolts.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wheat Harvest

Ritter photo
Wheat Harvest Underway in Upper Valley

Idaho Falls--Cool, wet weather across Idaho slowed the 2009 wheat harvest; add over supply both domestically and internationally and Idaho farmers could find a flat market come harvest time. But most take the news in stride, and looking forward to getting the crop in.

“It’s not doom and gloom,” said Matt Gellings of Idaho Falls, “We’re off just a bit, we’re going to be average maybe a bit below, every year is so different.

The expected Idaho winter wheat harvest should finish up at 700,000 acres, that’s down 3 percent from last year, according to the Aug. 1 forecast. The yields should top 83 bushels an acre, up 8 bushels from last year.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Just in from Washington

Cattle Excluded from Greenhouse Gas Regulations

Washington– Rep. Latham (R-IA) and Rep. Tiahrt (R-KS) added amendments to the FY-2010 Environmental Protection Agency bill that prohibited EPA from regulating the cattle for green house gas emissions.

Rep. Latham’s amendment prohibited EPA from requiring cattle operation to report Green House Gas emissions from manure management systems. Congressman Tiahrt’s amendment prohibits EPA from regulating GHG emission that results from livestock production under the Clean Air Act (Cow tax). The EPA spending bill has passed out of the House Appropriation Committee to the Floor.

CCD Update

Jake Putnam photo
Bee Mortality Can Be Reduced, Acording to WSU

Pullman--Two years ago 40-percent of the American honeybees population disappeared. The death of the bees sparked a world wide solution to the problem but its remained a mystery until this week. Researchers at Washington State think they know what happened and how to fix the problem.

Bees are major players in the food chain because they pollinate plants that produce much of the US food supply. Dr. Steve Sheppard with the WSU Entomology Department says that about one-third of our diet is dependant on insect pollination. "Some of our major agricultural crops are completely dependent on honeybee pollination," Dr. Sheppard said.

"A normal strong, healthy colony within several weeks would decline," Sheppard said.
Without warning beekeepers across America began reporting up to 40 percent of their bees were dying or disappearing. They didn't know where the bees went or why.

Washington State Researchers started studying the situation and went to work analyizing honeycombs from collapsed, dying colonies and found pesticides in the combs.

Researchers think the pesticides reduced the lifespan of the bee and offset their development. They found out that honecombs soak up pesticides. Their solution to the problem was to replace the combs often and move the bees so they dont have contrated exposure in the hives year after year.

"I think this is a small part of a large effort," he said. In addition to swapping out the combs, scientists are also studying a new microscopic pathogen that could be another culprit causing the collapse of the bee colonies but they still have more research to do and more information to pass along to beekeepers.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Onion Harvest 2009

Onion Harvest Underway in Parma

Parma--Idaho growers expect to harvest 8,800 acres of onions in 2009, up 2 percent from last year. Onion acreage planted in Idaho is estimated at 9,000 acres, also up 2 percent from 2008.

Nationally, onion growers expect to harvest 151,510 acres of onions in 2009, down 1 percent from last year. Spring onion growers harvested 27,000 acres, down 5 percent from last
season. Summer, non-storage onion growers expect to harvest 17,700 acres, down 9 percent from a year ago. Storage onion growers plan to harvest 106,810 acres in 2009, up 1 percent
from last season.

US Farm News

Near Parma--Steve Ritter photo
High Speed Internet Use on Farms Skyrockets

Washington--DSL high-speed internet was the most common method of accessing the Internet, with 36 percent of U.S. farms using it, up from 27 percent in 2007. In 2007, dialup was the most common method of accessing the internet. Dialup access dropped from 47 percent in 2007 to 23 percent in 2009.

Satellite and wireless were each reported as the primary internet access methods on 13 percent of those U.S. farms with Internet access. Cable was reported as the primary access method on 11 percent of the farms. A total of 59 percent of U.S. farms now have Internet access, compared with 57 percent in 2007. Sixty-four percent of farms have access to a computer in 2009, the same level as 2007.

The proportion of U.S. farms owning or leasing a computer in 2009, at 61 percent, was up 1 percentage point from 2007. Farms using computers for their farm business increased 1 percentage point from 2007 to 36 percent in 2009.2009 Idaho Numbers:80% of farms have access to internet79% own or lease a computer

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

U of I Extension News

Beef Camp participants look at a ribeye image captured on University of Idaho Extension Educator Tianna Fife’s ultrasound machine.

Local Youth Make the Grade at Beef Camp

Mackay– Ever wonder why the steak you ate last night was tender? Or why it was tough? Local youth beef producers learned how a steak becomes tough or tender at the recent Beef Camp held at the Custer County Fair Grounds in Mackay. Just weeks before many of them were headed to the county fair to exhibit their market beef projects, 4H and FFA members learned why end product quality is so important to the beef industry.

“Beef producers must know how to produce a high quality product so every consumer has a positive eating experience each and every time they consume beef, or they will choose a different protein source the next time they go to the grocery store or restaurant,” says Sarah Baker, University of Idaho Extension Educator for Custer County. “By educating youth beef producers in 4H and FFA programs, they learn proper management techniques that enhance beef quality at an early age.”

Idaho beef producers sponsored the annual event with a grant from the Idaho Beef Council. The event was conducted by University of Idaho Extension beef team members, Sarah Baker (Custer County), Tianna Fife (Twin Falls County) and Dr. Benton Glaze (Twin Falls R&E Center).

Daylong activities and hands-on workshops focused on end-product quality and stressed the importance of raising a high quality beef product. One of the most popular sessions included a taste panel, where different cuts and grades of beef were cooked and sampled. Students learned the factors that affect the palatability of beef, including how genetics, feeding, and management techniques influence the eating quality of the steers they are raising.

Students practiced measuring ribeyes and backfat thickness, determined marbling scores, and participated in a retail meat identification contest. Other activities included identifying various feedstuffs and discussing why what you feed your steer affects your placing in the quality class at fair. The Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Trailer was on hand to discuss how proper management techniques enhance beef quality and product value. An ultra sound demonstration was given to determine back fat thickness, ribeye area, and percent intramuscular fat on two steers and showcase differences among them.

For more information on Beef Camp or how you can participate, please contact your local Extension Office or visit the Beef Team’s website at:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Conservation Program Sign-UP

Iron Creek Ranch, Salmon NRCS photo

Voluntary Conservation Stewardship Program Underway

Boise--USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has started sign-ups for the voluntary Conservation Stewardship Program that encourages farm and forestry producers to start or add conservation projects on their land.

"The Conservation Stewardship Program addresses identified resource problems with a comprehensive approach: we encourage producers to manage or maintain existing conservation activities as well as carry out additional conservation projects," said Idaho State Conservationist, Jeff Burwell.

The program is offered to producers in all 50 states through a continuous sign-up. The cutoff date for the first sign-up period is September 30; another proposed cutoff date will be in January 2010.

“The program is offered to agriculture and forestry producers nationwide through a continuous sign-up,” said Burwell. “To be considered in the first ranking period, producers must submit their applications by Sept. 30.”

“Congress capped the annual acreage enrollment at 12,769,000 acres for each fiscal year nationwide,” Burwell added.

To apply for the Stewardship Program, potential participants can complete a self-screening checklist to determine if the Conservation Stewardship Program is suitable for them or their operation. The checklist is available at NRCS field offices and on the NRCS Web site (

The application process requires producers to:
1.) Have farm records established with USDA Farm Service Agency,
2.) Be the operator of the land,
3.) Provide evidence that they have control of the land for 5 years, and;
4.) Provide a map delineating their entire agriculture or forestry operation.

“To be considered in the first round of funding,” Burwell said, “this information needs to be in place before an application can be accepted and before the ranking cutoff date.” Applications will be ranked by estimating environmental performance based on the producer’s current and proposed conservation activities.

Eligible applicants may include individual landowners, legal entities, and Indian tribes. Eligible lands include cropland, grassland, pastureland, rangeland, non-industrial private forestland, and agricultural land under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe. Land enrolled in the Conservation Security Program, Conservation Reserve Program, Grasslands Reserve Program and Wetlands Reserve Program are ineligible for the new Conservation Stewardship Program.

The program, authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill, revamped the former Conservation Security Program (CSP), improving its availability to both agricultural and forestry producers.
The new program is very different from the old CSP. All contracts under the old CSP will be honored until the end of the contract term.

Agricultural operators with critical resource concerns on their land or who need assistance with structural or other conservation practices can apply for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) first, then consider future enrollment in the Conservation Stewardship Program.

For additional information about the Conservation Stewardship Program, including eligibility requirements and the interim final rule, please visit: NRCS Web site (

Water call

Water Call Shuts Down Wells
Twin Falls--The Idaho Department of Water Resources shut-down wells in a four county area this week after a water call earlier this year by Clear Springs Foods. The water call could dry-up more than 41-hundred acres in the Magic Valley area.

The call is an attempt to increase water flows legally owned by Clear Springs Food and their aqua-culture operation in the Snake River Canyon near Twin Falls.

Ground water users went to District Court in Twin Falls to stop the order but were unsuccessful. The judge ruled that a stay would hurt Clear Springs operation. IDWR has found that groundwater pumping has contributed to reduced aquifer levels and diminished spring flows that are critical to the trout farms in the Canyon.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Meet a New Farmer

Meet an Idaho Farmer

Twin Falls--Steve Ritter caught up with a new farmer outside of Twin Falls, Dusty Tenney cashed in his insurance business and returned back to farming, he might break even the first year, but says he's happy to be back doing what he loves.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ag Waste Rules

Idaho Department of Agriculture Holds Public Meeting on Ag Waste Rules

Boise--The Idaho State Department of Agriculture heard public comments on new rules that establish distance between feed and waste piles on Idaho farms, nearby homes and businesses.

"If farmers want to spread their mint tailings out on land or manure in a field that’s not regulated. If its stockpiled in terms of a residence or a stream those are the set backs we are looking for," said John Bilderback of the Idaho Department of Agriculture.

The proposed rule applies to livestock manure, compost, food processing materials, feed waste, and waste from agricultural commodities such as cull onions, potatoes, etc. These waste products cannot be stockpiled within 500 feet of a hospital, church, non-responsible party’s home etc., or within 100 feet from a real property boundary, domestic or irrigation well, or waters of the state.
The new rule also requires that manure agricultural waste piles moved within a year, unless it's being appropriately composted. If ag waste is being composted, the waste could be stored up to two years.The proposed rule stems from an incident where an individual intentionally dumped dairy waste next to his neighbor’s home.

This was the first in a series of public meetings that are scheduled across the state.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Back to the Wheat Harvest

DSC09454, originally uploaded by Steve's Photo Library.

Farming Back on Track after a Week of Weather

Eagle--After week of record rainfall and cool temperatures, farmers like Lloyd Omby is back on the combine after a six day delay due to summer rains. This field is located in North Ada County, just outside of Eagle, Idaho. (Steve Ritter photo)

Caribou County News

Federal Government Begins Distribution of Draft Environmental Impact Statement Regarding Monsanto’s Proposal to Construct Environmentally Advanced Phosphate Mine

SODA SPRINGS-- The U.S. Bureau of Land Management started distribution of a draft Environmental Impact Statement regarding a proposal by P4 Production LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Monsanto Company, to open one of North America’s most environmentally advanced phosphate mines. It will provide elemental phosphorus used in making the world’s leading agricultural herbicide and other important products.

“The environmental safeguards will protect the nearby Blackfoot River from any detectable increases in selenium, a mineral that is of concern in phosphate mining,” said David W. Farnsworth, Business Unit Lead, Mineral Activities.

The BLM, which must approve the project, is distributing the draft Environmental Impact Statement to public repositories and interested parties. General public notice of the report’s availability is expected to be published August 14 in the Federal Register. The agency will be seeking public comment over a 45-day time period.

“We welcome this pubic review and look forward to working with the BLM and other agencies to answer all questions forthrightly,” Farnsworth said.

He said the Environmental Impact Statement includes discussion of several engineering alternatives to minimize the release of selenium from the mining operations. Monsanto favors a more stringent and expensive alternative, including covering selenium-bearing waste rock at the proposed mine with a laminated geosynthetic clay liner (GCL) that is essentially impervious to water. The agencies involved with preparing the Draft EIS, which includes BLM and Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, identify this option as their preferred alternative.

“Complex, detailed modeling conducted by BLM shows this is the best alternative to manage the selenium issue,” Farnsworth said, adding that there would also be a overlying layer of three feet of soil and other materials in addition to the geosynthetic liner.

Only a tiny volume of water from rain and snow could pass through the waste rock and it would be insufficient to wash out the selenium, he explained, adding that the water management systems are designed to provide further protection. Water that could run off from the mine site will be captured, analyzed and pumped to large lined ponds for testing. If the levels of selenium are too high, the water can be evaporated or treated. Only water meeting all appropriate water quality standards will be allowed to leave the mine site, Farnsworth said.

Selenium is a trace mineral that is essential for good health. Too much selenium, however, can be harmful to animals, fish and other wildlife.

Farnsworth said: “The cover design is intended to prevent any such harmful impacts from this project.”

The proposed mine will be restored with a diverse ecosystem of some 20 species of introduced and native grasses, wildflowers and other vegetation

“We also construct special habitat on reclaimed mine sites to give protective cover to small insects and animals that, in turn, are food for hawks, eagles and a rich assortment of other birds that inhabit the area,” said Michael Vice, Monsanto’s reclamation specialist. “As a result, we create a diverse ecosystem that encourages a large and thriving population of mammals, birds, insects and other living creatures.”

Monsanto has been recognized for its past efforts at reclaimed mine sites by the BLM, the U.S. Forest Service and the Idaho Department of Lands. Monsanto’s past reclaimed sites are certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council, which provides advice and review of corporate lands to enhance their usefulness and value for wildlife.

In all, the proposed mining site would include about 739 acres, of which only about 10 percent is in public ownership, and which is already nearby existing mine sites.

Phosphorus from Monsanto’s proposed mine will be used to make Roundup® brand herbicides. It is also used in other industries to make fire retardants, leavening agents, aviation fluid, carbonated beverages and many other products. The mine is needed by P4 in 2010 to continue P4’s normal operations.

The Soda Springs phosphate ore-processing plant has been operating since 1952 and has received ore from four phosphate mines in Southeast Idaho since that time. Monsanto employs about 770 people in Southeast Idaho. Annually, the company spends $115 million in Idaho for wages, salaries and payments to local vendors. Utilizing an economic multiplier to consider the indirect economic effect on the Idaho economy, the business produces an estimated $230 million annual economic impact on the state.

It pays nearly $3 million in state and local taxes, and millions more in state and federal royalty payments, which are shared with counties and schools.

More information about the project can be found at
Copies of the draft Environmental Impact Statement will be available to the public in a number of locations, including:

Soda Springs City Library
149 South Main
Soda Springs, ID 83276

U.S. Forest Service
Soda Springs Ranger District
410 East Hooper
Soda Springs, ID 83276

BLM / Forest Service Office
4350 Cliffs Drive
Pocatello, ID 83205

The entire draft Environmental Impact Statement can be found on the BLM Web site, which is

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Idaho Farm Bureau District 5 News

District 5 Annual Picnic a Success
Sandpoint--The Women's Committee was in action at the Bonner County summer picnic. Carole Rust, district 5 leadership committee, discussed business with Mary Miller, Bonner County women's co-chair, while Mary cooks burgers for the Bonner County Farm Bureau picnic.

Sandpoint--The Bonner County Farm Bureau Women's Leadership Committee held their annual summer picnic in beautiful Sandpoint this past week.

Chairwoman Carole Rust of the District 5 Leadership Committee called the meeting to order along with Mary Miller, Bonner County women's co-chair. Mary also did all the grilling duties at the picnic.

IFB helps Produce Safety Public Service Announcement

Nampa--Canyon County and Ada County Farm Bureau's formed a partnership earlier this year to produce and air public service announcements urging motorists to look out for farm machinery on rural roadways.

"We're seeing more equipment on the roads this season and drivers need to make sure they have eye contact with farmers driving their equipment out there, being vigilant could save lives this fall," said Canyon County Farm Bureau Board member Sid Freeman. "We're seeing more and more impatient people that don't realize how long it takes machinery to get from one field to the next. They put themselves and others at risk by making bad decisions on the road."

Ada County Farm Bureau President Don Sonke says subdivisions have expanded into prime farm land, that means more traffic and accidents. "Drivers don't expect to see farm equipment anymore and they're miles from the city limit, they don't know what to do." he said.

Steve Ritter and Jake Putnam produced the PSA's under direction of the County Farm Bureaus. "We just want people to drive safe, hopefully this PSA will raise awareness." said Ritter. The Fall Public Service Announcement was completed on Friday and will start airing across the SW Idaho throughout the harvest season.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Parma Field Day

Annual Fruit Field Day Sept. 3 at Parma Research and Extension Center

PARMA, Idaho—The University of Idaho’s Parma Research and Extension Center will host its annual Fruit Field Day on Sept. 3, when visitors can see and taste a cornucopia of new varieties being evaluated at the center.

Hosted by fruit physiologist Essie Fallahi, the free tour welcomes everyone with an interest in tree fruit and table grapes—from large, commercial growers to home gardeners. It begins with registration at 8:30 a.m. and concludes at 1 p.m. The field day includes:

• Presentation and sampling of new fruits, including table grapes, peaches, nectarines, apples, quinces, Asian pears and other alternative crops
• Discussion of the potential of growth bio-regulators in fruit crops
• Tour of the center’s comprehensive research in Fuji apples--including irrigation, fertilization, chemical thinning and pesticides—and its peach and nectarine trials
• Visit to its alternative fruit orchard, including quinces, Asian pears, persimmons, jujube, haskaps and mulberries
• Tour of its table grape vineyards, including a new grape-canopy experiment

Participants are encouraged to bring questions about fruit production for the commercial, small-farm and home orchard. Fallahi will discuss such issues as planting, growth regulators, pruning, thinning, girdling, pest control and irrigation.

The Parma Research and Extension Center is located about a mile north of Parma at 29603 U of I Lane. For more information, call (208) 722-6701.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

President's Editorial

County Farm Bureaus Making a Difference
by Frank Priestley, Idaho Farm Bureau President

A tip of the hat goes out to leaders in Madison and Bonneville County Farm Bureaus. With farmers facing large property tax increases, leaders from these two county Farm Bureaus rolled up their sleeves and went to work. In the end they both worked with county commissioners and others to find compromises that will benefit all of the rural landowners in these two counties.

In Madison County, an assessor who recently left office did so with a 10-year backlog. The county was so far behind in assessing farm values, the Idaho State Tax Commission threatened to withhold the county’s sales tax receipts until the problem was corrected. This caught the attention of the county commissioners, and as a result most farmers and landowners in the county received anywhere from 100 to 400 percent property valuation increases.

To farmers, an increase in that amount following 10 years of relatively flat valuations was not well received. County Farm Bureau leaders called a meeting and invited all farmers to attend. They decided to hire an attorney to argue their case. A hearing with the county commissioners was called and State Tax Commission representatives were in attendance. Rexburg attorney Jerry Rigby proposed the farmers be allowed a hybrid methodology to determine land values and a phase-in period for the adjustment. Further, he used University of Idaho economic data to demonstrate that high farm input and production costs coupled with mediocre commodity prices did not justify the increased valuations.

The attorney’s proposal wasn’t legal and the County Commissioners rejected it. However, because irrigation equipment, which is supposed to be tax exempt, was inadvertently included in the valuations, the county agreed to a 10 to 13 percent reduction in property valuations. Farmers obviously didn’t get everything they wanted, but in the end their vigilance paid off.

Our second example took place in Bonneville County. When farmers there received what they believed to be exaggerated valuations, they took their concerns to their county Farm Bureau board meeting. It came to light that the county assessor’s office could be relying on inflated commodity prices that occurred in 2007 and 2008 due in part to the ethanol boom, when in fact counties are supposed to use a five-year rolling average of commodity prices to help determine land values.

Although protests didn’t yield much if any tax breaks, Bonneville County Commissioners did agree to cooperate with the Bonneville County Farm Bureau to determine production costs and commodity prices in the future. This cooperation gives farmers a voice in the process of computing land values.

The old saying, you can’t fight city hall, rings true in both of these examples. But sometimes the squeaky wheel does get some grease, and we applaud Madison and Bonneville County Farm Bureau leaders for their initiative and tenacity.

In addition, we strongly encourage all Idaho farmers to accurately fill out and return your county agriculture surveys. The surveys are mailed every fall and are relied upon by county assessors to help determine land values. In Madison County last year 1,900 surveys were mailed out with fewer than 300 returned. In Bonneville County 2,500 went in the mail and a county official estimated 40 percent were returned.

Friday, August 7, 2009

August Storms

Freak Summer Storms Rock Idaho
Boise--A series of thundershowers rocked the Treasure Valley Thursday - with heavy rain, lightning and high wind. The storm are coming from the south with a low pressure system expected to move across the state later today. The National Weather Service issued severe thunderstorm Warnings and a Flash Flood Warning that will extend into the weekend across much of Idaho.

The storms come right in the middle of wheat harvest across Idaho, storm damage assesments are still pending but many combines were standing idle in fields across Canyon, Ada, and Gem counties. In Boise storm drains flooded streets and a tornado warning was issued for Custer County in Central Idaho.

"It seemed like it came in all of a sudden. It was pretty quiet, and then it changed. There's some pretty gnarly lookin' clouds out there," Stanley resident Sarah Nedeau told KTVB.

The storms come after two weeks of 100-degree heat, the high temperature forecast for Friday is expected to hit the 67 degrees. 35-degrees cooler than Tuesday.

KTVB Meteorologist Larry Gebert says more showers and thunderstorms are possible into Saturday. "A fall-like weather pattern is moving in, and will bring much cooler temperatures over the area tomorrow," he said.

Boise set a daily rainfall record for August 6th - with more than .87 inches of moisture in the rain gauge at the Boise Airport. The old record of .14 inches was set in 1974.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

U of I Extension News

Robert Blair photo

Computer Program Tracks Herbicide Use

By Bill Loftus

MOSCOW, Idaho—A new computer program developed by University of Idaho weed scientists is designed to simplify herbicide selection and prevent development of herbicide resistant weeds and damage to future crops.

Weed scientists Donn Thill, Joan Campbell and Traci Rauch developed the program for dryland farmers in northern Idaho, eastern Washington and eastern Oregon. Weed scientist Don Morishita at the Kimberly Research and Extension Center is working to expand the program’s use to southern Idaho irrigated crop rotations.

“The goal is to help growers make decisions about which herbicide might best control weed problems and fit into their crop rotations,” said Thill, a professor of weed science and superintendent of the Palouse Research, Extension and Education Center at Moscow.
The program, “Herbicide Resistance and Persistence Management,” is available on a free trial basis to growers. Growers who decide to use the program will be charged a $50 annual subscription fee to cover updates.

The program combines two of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences’ most popular publications into a dynamic program that can provide more frequent updates than printed offerings, Thill said.

Tracking and adjusting herbicide use is essential to controlling resistance in weeds. Over 200 weeds worldwide now show resistance to commonly used herbicides. Thill and Campbell have been leaders in helping Northwest growers plan strategies to limit herbicide resistance in weeds.
The main way to avoid resistance is to change herbicides based on their modes of action on weeds.

Growers can face substantial challenges in both trying to use herbicides from different groups to control common weeds and then keeping clear records through multiple seasons.

The University of Idaho’s herbicide management program can help accomplish both tasks. In addition, the program targets another challenge for growers, deciding which herbicide best fits their crop rotations. Some herbicides can persist in the soil for more than a year in concentrations high enough to damage future crops that are especially susceptible to damage.
The backbone of the program is manufacturer’s labels required by federal law for all herbicides. The label information contains directions on which crop the herbicide is registered and directions on how to use it.

The program’s data files contain all herbicides and their uses in Pacific Northwest dryland, or non-irrigated, agriculture that have been registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a massive undertaking. Multiple crops and rotations made a computer program the best option for growers, Thill said.

The database tracks label directions on herbicide persistence for up to five years, although in most cases the effects are gone in a year. Some crops, however, can suffer herbicide injury several years later. In rare instances, Thill said, unique soil conditions could extend herbicide persistence but common sense made five years seem a logical limit.

Thill said the weed scientists plan to update the database twice each year to keep the data as current as possible. The program is available for purchase online at Growers who download the program will have a six month trial period before they have to pay a subscription fee.

The program’s development was funded by the Idaho Wheat Commission, Idaho Barley Commission and University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

August Lightning Storm

August Lightning Storm, originally uploaded by IdFarmBureau.

Emmett--A low pressure system has pushed in from the south. The storm brought high winds and dust but little rain. Canyon, Ada, Gem, and Washington Counties were plagued by the dry lightning that's touched off dozens of grass fires across the four county area. Despite red flag warnings BLM crews have the upper hand on the fires.

Idaho Bean Harvest: 30 days and Counting

Idaho Farm Bureau Vice President Carl Montgomery says the 2009 Bean harvest could be one of the best ever thanks to promising market prices, and excellent growing conditions, The Farm Bureau's Steve Ritter reports:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Speeder, originally uploaded by IdFarmBureau.

A crop duster flies 15 feet over a field outside of Emmett, Idaho on Monday night. Steve Ritter says the duster was exceeding the speed limit.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Food News

Locavores Enjoy ‘Re-connecting’ With Their Food

Washington--One of the biggest drivers in the locavore trend is the desire of many consumers to “re-connect” with the food they eat. Farmers’ markets have never been more popular due in part to consumers wanting to know specifically where their food comes from and the need to make a personal, one-on-one connection with the farmer who produces the bounty they enjoy.

Dawn Thilmany McFadden, a professor of agribusiness and agribusiness Extension economist with Colorado State University in Fort Collins, has done extensive research on locavores. On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., she provided policymakers on Capitol Hill with an overview of her research on the locavore trend that continues to gain momentum. McFadden said many factors are driving the locavore trend. The desire for fresh, nutritious produce is on the top of the list.

But also critical is the need for one-on-one assurance, where a consumer can make the personal connection with the farmer. “That personal connection is vital. In an age when consumers are so detached from the production of their food, locavores depend on the personal touch. They want to know the farmer who produces their food,” McFadden said. When consumers have that personal connection with the farmer, they also gain a greater assurance regarding the safety of the food they buy, she pointed out. “They feel secure that they are doing the right thing for their family,” she explained.

Organic food is important to many locavores. But by and large, the desire for locally grown produce far outpaces the desire for organic produce. The initial results of Colorado State’s fall 2008 local food survey shows that 80 percent of consumers surveyed place a high importance on local food. The survey shows that just over 50 percent rank organic produce as important.

“It is clear that organically grown seems to be generally less important to consumers than locally grown,” McFadden said. large portion of the respondents in the Colorado State survey placed high importance on maintaining local farmland in their fresh produce buying decisions.

“As one might expect, consumers, whose primary produce source is direct from farmers, place the greatest importance on maintaining farmland,” McFadden said. Another key driver in the locavore trend is supporting the local economy. “Consumers like to know that the money they spend on produce stays in the community.”

Monday, August 3, 2009

Harvest News

Robert Blair photo
Wheat Harvest Underway on the Palouse

Kendrick--The big combines on Robert Blair's farm are rolling across the spring wheat fields above Kenrick, Idaho. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that harvests are in full swing in Montana, North and South Dakota and Eastern Washington.

Water News

Salmon--Idaho Whitewater is still running high, even in August! 2009 has been one of the best water years of the decade and there should be plenty of water for harvest across Idaho.

Just in from Washington

Minnick, Simpson Win Support for Dairy Producers

Idaho Congressmen applaud USDA decision to respond to dairy crisis

WASHINGTON – Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick and Mike Simpson applauded a decision by the United States Department of Agriculture to provide additional assistance to dairy producers in the wake of terrible economic conditions in the industry. Minnick and Simpson had written to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack earlier in the week asking for this assistance.

“Like most of my constituents, I very much appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s quick action to help Idaho’s dairy farmers and assist struggling families,” Minnick said. “Congressman Simpson and I share a deep respect for all that the dairy industry means to Idaho, and an appreciation for the need to make sure Idaho farmers and ranchers have the kinds of stable markets which are crucial to Idaho’s economy.”

“I am very appreciative to Secretary Vilsack for his quick response to our request, and those of others, for assistance to this vital sector of Idaho’s economy,” said Simpson. “The assistance being provided to dairy producers is being done under existing programs and existing authorities that were put in place to deal with economic emergencies such as those now facing the dairy industry. Along with Congressman Minnick, I will continue to monitor the impact of this decision and consider additional ways in which we might mitigate the impact of the current situation.”

The action announced today will help support struggling dairy farmers by increasing the amount paid for dairy products through the Dairy Product Price Support Program (DPPSP). USDA estimates show that these increases, which will be in place from August 2009 through October 2009, will increase dairy farmers' revenue by $243 million.

The price support increases will raise the price paid for nonfat dry milk from $0.80 per pound to $0.92 per pound, the price paid for cheddar blocks from $1.13 per pound to $1.31 per pound, and the price of cheddar barrels from $1.10 per pound to $1.28 per pound. This increase in the support price will have an immediate effect upon dairy farmers' bottom line. Temporarily raising the price of these dairy products increases the price that dairy farmers receive for their milk.

USDA also announced that it is currently reviewing federal dairy policy to determine what changes are needed to reduce price volatility and enhance farmer profitability.

Both Minnick and Simpson are charter members of the newly revived Congressional Dairy Caucus.

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...