Sunday, January 31, 2010

Idaho Grapes

Learn to Grow Table Grapes at Feb. 6 Workshop in Parma
Written by Marlene Fritz

PARMA, Idaho—Snake River Valley residents can unlock the keys to producing luscious table grapes when University of Idaho Extension faculty deliver their research-based knowledge to participants in this year’s Table Grape Symposium Feb. 6 at Parma High School.

Pomologist Essie Fallahi will discuss propagation, pruning, training, canopy designs, nutrition and storage for maximum table grape size, production and quality. Nematologist Saad Hafez will address nematodes and ground fumigation, and plant pathologist Krishna Mohan will cover grape powdery mildew and other important diseases. In addition to these Parma Research and Extension Center faculty, the workshop will feature Pipeco’s Dick Bronson on grape irrigation and Wilbur-Ellis’ Tom Tankersley on grape insects and agrichemicals.

Participants who bring their pruning tools and allow workshop sponsors to sanitize them may participate in an early-afternoon session of applying what they’ve learned.

The workshop, co-sponsored by the University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the Snake River Table Grape Growers Association, will begin at 8:30 a.m. and conclude at 2:30 p.m. Cost is $28 for individuals and $40 for couples. Lunch is included.

To register, call the SRTGGA at (208) 573-8405 or (208) 850-4261 by Feb. 2. Parma High School is located at 137 Panther Way in Parma.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Just in from Washington

Lincoln’s Support Key to Reining in Regulations
WASHINGTON--Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) is sponsoring a resolution to disapprove the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Lincoln’s support builds key momentum for an issue that is of vital importance to America’s farmers and ranchers, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

AFBF President Bob Stallman said Lincoln’s support for the resolution, introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), could not have come at a better time and reflects true bipartisan concern.

“Sen. Lincoln recognizes the very real apprehension that Americans today harbor about the overreach of government regulations,” Stallman said. “America’s farmers and ranchers believe incentives and initiatives that focus on clean energy would be much more effective than once again trotting out the heavy hand of government regulation. We fully support Sens. Lincoln and Murkowski in their efforts to oppose EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations.”

According to Stallman, the EPA’s proposal to regulate greenhouse gases is all about propping up seriously flawed cap-and-trade climate legislation being considered in Congress.

“Cap-and-trade climate bills would cut deeply into America’s ability to produce food and grow crops,” Stallman said. “Trying to breathe life into bad cap-and-trade legislation through an all-stick-and-no-carrot regulatory scheme is just bad public policy. In this case, there is no lesser of those two evils.

“While the benefits of those regulations are very much in question, the costs are crystal clear—fewer American jobs and higher costs for all Americans. Gearing up our nation’s clean energy capability and encouraging innovation that is fueled by positive government policy will pay dividends and offer American agriculture a key role in a lasting solution.”

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cap and Trade legislation in Congress

Farmers Flock to Online Petition Site

Washington--Farm Bureau members are signing onto an online petition site to let Congress know that they think cap-and-trade legislation means higher energy and food costs. Thousands have already signed and the petition continues to grow. Many think the proposed legislation will shrink the American agricultural sector, resulting in a drop of U.S. food production

The online petition is on the American Farm Bureau site:

Under cap-and-trade legislation in Congress, American families will end up footing the bill. According to the Department of Energy, energy costs could grow by $1,870 per household. Combined with higher costs for food, the additional yearly hit on families would total about $2,300 per household. Said another way, the cap-and-trade law would impose costs of up to $200 billion a year on American taxpayers.

“At the farm gate, as much as 17 percent of U.S. agricultural land currently used for food production will be idled and planted in trees under the House bill,” said American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman. “That is because the vast majority of incentive payments will go to people who choose to grow and maintain trees for greenhouse gas reduction, rather than farmers who work to put food on Americans’ tables. This shift in land use will hurt consumers at the grocery store. Food costs could rise by up to an average of $33 billion annually in 2020 and up to $51 billion annually by 2030 as a result of this legislation.”

Higher fuel and fertilizer costs to American farmers and ranchers will will put them at a competitive disadvantage in international markets with other countries because they do not have similar carbon emission restrictions.

“My goal is to engage at least 2 percent of Farm Bureau members,” said Stallman. “I am personally asking members to sign a new farm cap on its bill (if you are like me, you have a lot of unused caps in your closet) and hand-deliver it to a member of Congress with the message “Don’t Cap Our Future.”

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Just in from the Statehouse

Jake Putnam photo

Lawmaker wants to limit Legislative Session
BOISE — An Idaho lawmaker wants to put a cap on Idaho’s expensive marathon sessions. Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise wants to pass legislation limiting the length of legislative sessions.

Thirty-nine states have laws limiting the number of days legislatures can be in session on the books. Burgoyne plans on introducing a constitutional amendment that would limit each regular session of the Legislature to 90 calendar days. His proposal comes after last year’s 117 day marathon.

According to the budget office a typical legislative day costs Idaho taxpayers more than $30,000 a day. Burgoyne thinks lawmakers should have deadlines, like their hard working constituents.

The House Democrat admits that a constitutional amendment from the minority party doesn’t have much of a chance at passage because the House and Senate require a two-thirds supermajority to get the measure on a ballot before the people, nonetheless the idea is gaining bipartisan support.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

State of the Union Notes

Courtesty of the AP, Tim Sloan pool photo
President Obama Addresses Ag and Rural issues in State Of Union Address

Washington--President Barrack Obama recognized that rural America is hurting in tonight's State of the Union address saying that "Small towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard" in the recession, yet there was no substantive solution offered in the address.

The President mentioned job creation more than 39 times saying that jobs must be the nation's number one priority in 2010. Mr. Obama also called for a new jobs bill stating that American businesses are the true engine of job creation and that the government must create the climate for businesses to expand. He then pledged the $30-billion bailout dollars that banks have paid back to small businesses along with tax credits for employers that hire or raise wages. Obama also called on eliminating all capital gains taxes on small businesses.

The President called on Congress to join the Administration in encouraging American energy innovation calling for new nuclear power plants and clean energy. He also mentioned opening offshore areas for oil and natural gas development. Obama asked Congress to invest in biofuels and clean coal along with new incentives for homegrown clean energy. He wants a bipartisan bill passed in the Senate supporting these energy initiatives.

A bright spot was Obama's declaration of doubling exports over the next five years, which he said would "support two million jobs." To achieve the goal, he said he is "launching a National Export Initiative that will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports, and reform export controls consistent with national security."

A concern in the address for Ag producers came with a call for a three-year freeze in discretionary spending. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) said that would not include agriculture commodity programs because they are not discretionary but "mandatory spending, driven by a formula, not by appropriation," a point he touched upon with Nebraska journalist Chuck Haga earlier this week. But he said a freeze would probably affect conservation programs and, Haga writes, "possibly nutrition, rural development and other areas."

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson was in the chamber and watched the speech, he said that tighter budgets and addressing the deficit will turn the economy around. "Getting our out-of-control budget deficit under control must be our top priority, and it will require all Americans to participate, rather than criticizes the President’s proposal to freeze discretionary spending, I consider it an initial offer to Congress in what I hope will be a bipartisan dialogue that leads to real action. I fully expect the counter offer made by House Republicans to bring more robust ideas to the table as well, and I hope these include freezing discretionary spending across the board."

Crop Stats

Apple Production Down in '09, Peaches Up

Boise--Idaho’s 2009 apple crop will top an estimated 50 million pounds, down 41 percent from 2008, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Apple value of utilized production is estimated at $11.8 million, down 37 percent from 2008, but up 33 percent from 2007.

Peach production totaled 9,200 tons, up 15 percent from 2008. Peach utilized production totaled 8,300 tons, up 880 tons from 2008. Peach value of utilized production is estimated at $7.28 million, up 44 percent from 2008, but down 8 percent from 2007.

Sweet cherry production is estimated at 6,000 tons, up 216 percent from 2008. Utilized production is estimated at 2,700 tons, up 50 percent from 2008.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dairy News from the MPI

Milk Prices Project Improvement in 2010
Boise--USDA reports that All-Milk price is expected to average in the range of $16.20 to $17 in 2010, a vast improvement from $12.79 in 2009. In its Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook released yesterday; USDA also expects dairy exports to rebound, though not quite to the level of 2008’s record volume. Domestic consumption of dairy products should also climb 1%. But the USDA expects dairy cow numbers to dip below 9 million head in 2010 as farms downsize in the aftermath of the 2009 economic downturn.

Monday, January 25, 2010

YF&R Wrap Up

Putnam photo
Rod Sharp CSU Ag Economist Addresses YF&R Leadership Conference

You were a hit last year, back again this year?

I’m real excited to be here because I did a presentation with this group last year, they are fantastic, very forward thinking, I think they are open to new ideas and strategies. What I’m going to talk about here today is kind of give them tools that they can use manage price risk related to beef cattle industry. Later on we will talk about succession transfer from one generation to the next land properties and a broader, holistic way of passing on land from one generation to the next.

Whats going on with the cattle market?

Its just supply and demand thing going on right now. I think the outlook is fairly good for beef cattle right now, think its kind of a glitch right now, some of the dairy buyout out isn’t helping much right now. I think its going to be okay, I think the supply is a bit congested right now, that’s the biggest issue right now.

So its supply?

There is too much beef on the market right now, too much chicken and pork, too much competition right now.

Legacy is the future of Agriculture?

Were talking about passing on how to transfer personal possessions of emotional value onto the next generation, how to look at your final wishes, instructions that you want to pass on with your values and life’s lesions.

Whats the most important thing YF&R members need to know?

Learn as much about management skills, knowledge as you can. Take advantage of the tools that are available to you; as far as insurance programs, marketing tools, risk management tools, because threes a lot of people out there trying to help them and if they can take advantage of the tools they will be better off.
Knowledge is power?
We are moving forward, this generation has a lot more knowledge available at their finger tips.

U of I Extension News

Agricultural Groups Step Up to Support Parma, Tetonia

MOSCOW– The Treasure Valley Agricultural Coalition, which represents specialty and seed crops, mobilized supporters of the Parma center who collectively contributed $65,000 to fund field operations through June 30, the end of the fiscal year.
University of Idaho research and extension centers at Tetonia and Parma begin the new year as models of enhanced public support for work that benefits the state, said John Hammel, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences dean.

A separate five-year agreement with tree fruit and table grape industry interests will contribute $30,000 a year to support operations at the center's orchards and vineyards. Contributors included the Idaho Apple and Cherry Commissions, Idaho State Horticultural Society Stone Fruit Committee and the Snake River Table Grape Association.

At Tetonia, which is important to potato and cereal variety development and the foundation seed program, agricultural industry groups contributed $120,000 to fund field operations there through the end of harvest. The Idaho Potato Seed Growers contributed $65,000, the Idaho Potato Commission $40,000 and the Idaho Barley Commission contributed $15,000 toward continued center operations through harvest.

"We know it was a difficult process for many of our supporters that at times strained important relationships," Hammel said. "I greatly appreciate the strong efforts by different agricultural sectors and leaders in the Treasure Valley to find funding to support work that is important to the state and the economy."

Facing a $3.2 million or 11.5 percent state budget cut, the college proposed late last spring a plan that would end funding for field operations by Dec. 31 at the Parma center and plans to seek alternative funding to support orchards, vineyards and field operations.

The plan was based on recommendations of a statewide committee, which also supported similar moves at the Tetonia and Sandpoint research and extension centers.

After voiced concerns and widespread support for Parma, incoming University of Idaho President Duane Nellis asked college administrators to re-examine the plan and redouble efforts to find alternate funding. The review re-affirmed the plan and called for supporters to commit funds by November to sustain the centers' operations.

In early December, the university announced a five-year agreement with the J.R. Simplot Co. that will contribute $300,000 a year to the Parma center to support operations for company research and help fund overall field operations.

A special gift fund in the college will enable operations at the Sandpoint center to continue operations at 60 percent of normal through June 30 to allow more time to determine long-term funding opportunities in collaborative efforts with Sandpoint city officials, agricultural representatives and stakeholders. Hammel acknowledged the strong support for the Sandpoint center and hoped that it would it would lead to long-term, sustainable solutions for operating the center.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Idaho Statehouse Tour

Idaho Young Farmers & Ranchers Tour the Capitol. The State tour is always one of the highlights.

Friday, January 22, 2010


YF&R LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE, originally uploaded by IdFarmBureau.

YF&R Members meet with State Leaders at Idaho Statehouse

Boise--Cody and Britney Chandler talk to Senator Monty Pierce (R-New Plymouth) at the Idaho State House during the YF&R tour of the State Capitol on Friday. The Chandler's run a ranching operation outside of Weiser, Idaho.


YFA&R LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE, originally uploaded by IdFarmBureau.

Lt. Gov. Brad Little Listens

Boise--Idaho Lt. Governor Brad Little cleared his schedule Friday morning to address 135 members of Idaho Farm Bureau's Young Farm and Ranchers group at the refurbished Idaho Statehouse.

Governor Little discussed the State's budget crisis and the upcoming legislative session. The Young Farmers and Ranchers listened intently as Little, a rancher himself discussed the problems facing the state this coming year.

The YF and R members toured the remodeled Statehouse, some had the chance to meet with and talk to their lawmakers before heading off to lunch at Tucano's.

Idaho YF&R Conference

YF&R Conference Casino Night

Boise--Make believe fortunes were won and lost at the Opening Casino night at the 2010 Casino night at the Holiday Inn in Boise.

Over 130 young farmers and ranchers gather here for the next three days for their annual conference. Meeting new friends, networking and good fun was first on the agenda. The gathering runs through Saturday.

Hit or Stay ?

Hit or Stay ?, originally uploaded by Steve's Photo Library.

YF&R Meets in Boise

Boise--The YF&R Leadership conference is underway at the Holiday Inn in Boise. Thursday night got underway with Family Casino Night. The conference continues until Saturday. Steve Ritter photo

Just in from Washington

Idaho's December Jobless Revised Down to 9.1 Percent

Washington--The U.S. Department of Labor revised the Gem State's December unemployment rate downward a tenth to a seasonally adjusted 9.1 percent.

The revision matched Novembers and comes in as the highest unemployment rate since May of 1983. Using additional economic information gathered last week, the department determined that total employment was higher than originally forecast while the number of unemployed actually dropped from November to remain under 69,000.

It was the first time since April that the number of workers without jobs has declined from the previous month. Despite persisting job losses across much of the economy, Idaho's total number of employed remained at just over 685,000 - the fewest number of employed since January 2005. While the gap in total jobs continued to close in December, it was only fractionally smaller than in November at a year-over-year loss of 5.3 percent.

Idaho Department of Labor analysts anticipate the jobless rate could rise further over the next few months before leveling off at or below 9 percent during the second half of this year.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

AFBF Supports Halt to EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gases
WASHINGTON-The American Farm Bureau Federation supports legislative efforts by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to stop an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

In a letter to Murkowski that was sent to all senators, AFBF President Bob Stallman said the EPA proposal is ill-timed because climate discussions held in Copenhagen last month did not produce a “meaningful international agreement that puts all nations on a level playing field with respect to carbon emissions.”

“In the absence of such an international agreement, it would be foolish for our country—from both an economic and an environmental standpoint—to undertake such regulatory action as contemplated by EPA. Administrator Lisa Jackson testified before the Senate last summer that the U.S. acting on its own cannot affect the global climate,” Stallman wrote. “Yet, it is clear that a regulatory scheme such as that contemplated under the endangerment finding would have significant negative effects on the economy.”

In the letter, Stallman noted a resolution passed unanimously by delegates to AFBF’s 91st annual meeting last week that not only expressed opposition to cap-and-trade legislation but that “strongly supports any legislative action that would suspend EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.”

Idaho Ag News

Despite Overall Drop in Idaho Ag, a golden lining
Boise--John Hammel, Dean of the University of Idaho College of Agriculture told the Joint Legislative Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee that Idaho Agriculture dropped 17-percent in 2009, the biggest single year drop in four decades

Most of the biggest losses came on the livestock side of Idaho Agriculture. But crops like sugar beets made what could have been a sour year sweet. The 2009 beet crop should top $252 million, up an amazing 72 percent from 2008. Production came in at 5.59 million tons, up 54 percent from 2008 and the average price for the 2009 crop is forecast to be up 11-percent

Potatoes continue to be the state's number one crop with revenues in 2009 estimated at a healthy $796 million some 2-percent higher than a year ago.Although prices were down 1 percent, production was up 12 percent to 131 million hundredweight.

Barley was up 12 percent despite the fact that production was down 3 percent, market prices were up 5 percent.But not all crops were golden. Hay producers saw sales drop 40 percent to $406 million as market prices tumbled 28 percent and production fell by 3 percent.

Wheat, the state's number two crop, saw production increase by 1 percent but prices fall by 35 percent. Wheat income was down by 28 percent compared to the previous year. Onions were up 43 percent in 2009 with production just 5 percent, but prices soared to 46 percent.

Barley was up 12 percent despite the fact that production was down 3 percent, prices hiked up 5 percent. But not all crops were golden. Hay growers saw cash receipts fall by 40 percent to $406 million as prices tumbled 28 percent and production fell by 3 percent.

Dairy remains the state's largest agricultural revenue producer despite watching prices fall by 32 percent. The state's dairy industry brought in $698 million less in 2009 than 2008.

Despite the relative weakness of agriculture in 2009, Ag remains the number one industry in the Gem State. Agricultural business accounted for $21 billion in sales and 157,000 jobs last year. In comparison, high tech had $20.6 billion in sales and 115,000 jobs.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Eastern Idaho Ag Expo in full swing in Pocatello

Ag Expo: The Biggest in Idaho

POCATELLO — Farm equipment vendors pitched machinery at the Eastern Idaho Ag Expo in Pocatello while farmers walked down packed rows of equipment in wonder at the ISU Mini Dome.

Every square foot of the arena was packed with equpment and equipment displays were added in the Northside parking in the balmy 45-degree heatwave. The show features 101 vendors and will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday.

The Ag Expo is the largest agricultural equipment show in Idaho and annually draws more than 5,000 growers from throughout the world. Parking spaces are rare and every hotel room in Pocatello is booked until Friday.

The Eastern Idaho Ag Expo is organized by Spectra Productions and while the vendors courted farmers Kent Persons from Spectra said “Even the used stuff looks new and shiny. You absolutely want to catch that eye so you can talk to a grower.”

Persons said growers have come from as far as China, the Middle East and the former East Germany. Persons explained it’s an important show because many of the innovations in the potato industry occur in Southeast Idaho.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Idaho Potato Conference Underway in Poky

Idaho Potato Conference: Putting Sustainability into Practice

Pocatello-The 42nd Idaho Potato Conference gets underway on Tuesday at Idaho State University in Pocatello. This year’s theme is "Putting Sustainability into Practice." The event brings everyone who is anyone in the Idaho potato industry under one roof and usually draws more than a 1,000 producers, salesmen, dealers in conjunction with the Eastern Idaho Ag Expo, that gets underway this morning on the ISU campus.

Conference speakers will discuss putting sustainability into everyday practice in these economic times by using cost cutting techniques by putting fertilizers, pesticides, water, fuel and other inputs more effectively. Producers will also have the chance to check out the latest in farm equipment in the Mini-Dome not to mention the chance to attend the invaluable workshops and seminars.

University researchers will also discuss the latest potato varieties that improve resistance to pests and diseases that eat up pesticide applications and profits. Some of the newest varieties will go on display at the ISU student union lobby.

Representatives from J.R. Simplot Co. will be on hand to discuss consumers' interest in improved product quality and nutritional value.

Food safety workshops will help growers learn how to enhance food safety and incorporate the latest and best agriculture practice audits. The Vice President of the National Potato Council, John Keeling, will discuss national forces that are driving growers toward sustainability.

Other things discussed starting on Tuesday morning: organic potato production practices, manure management, production cost trends and forecasts, supply-demand balance and evolving food-service products.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Idaho Farm Bureau wins Pinacle Award

Idaho Farm Bureau Recognized
Seattle--American Farm Bureau Pesident Bob Stallman (right) awards the Idaho Farm Bureau the distinguished Pinacle Award to IFB President Frank Priestley.

State Farm Bureaus were recognized for excellence in membership achievement and for implementing outstanding programs serving members in 2009. The award was presented during AFBF’s 91st annual meeting last week in Seattle.

Stallman announced just a handful of winners for the prestigious award that recognizes outstanding program achievement with membership growth. Arizona, Kansas, Massachusetts, Ohio and Tennessee Farm Bureaus were co-winners.

American Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Seattle

Farm Bureaus Lead Rural Development Efforts
Seattle--There was a time when railroads were the perfect rural development tool. Then the interstate system brought prosperity—or in some cases decline—to certain towns.

These days, “rural development” can refer to many different things, some of which were discussed by representatives of state Farm Bureaus at an informational session held during the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting. State Farm Bureaus have been involved in separate rural development efforts that work to expand broadband access in Kansas, promote local foods in Ohio and build vibrant communities in North Carolina.

“Farm Bureau has a responsibility to assume a position of leadership,” said North Carolina Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten, who moderated the session. In order to stay vibrant and healthy, rural communities depend on local farmers and ranchers, but the reverse is also true: farmers and ranchers depend on vibrant and healthy local communities, Wooten added.
The Kansas Farm Bureau is heavily involved in a project called Connect Kansas, a subsidiary of the national non-profit Connected Nation. Connect Kansas’ goal is to map and expand broadband coverage in rural Kansas.

The intent, said Harry Watts, KFB’s managing director of governmental relations, is to “create a national model in Kansas” to help other states expand broadband access as well. The program has several key components, including mapping the entire state’s broadband infrastructure.

Connect Kansas is also conducting a survey to find out how citizens are using the Internet, where they are getting online and what prevents them from connecting. The program is also targeting what Watts referred to as the “disenfranchised” – those who don’t use the Internet simply because they can’t afford a laptop. Broadband access has a huge impact on the viability of rural communities, Watts said, affecting everything from attracting businesses to leadership development to distance learning opportunities, and even things like health care.

The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, through its involvement in the Ohio Food Policy Council, is working on several initiatives to help boost rural development by helping farmers develop new markets for their farm products.

Among these initiatives, said Adam Sharp, senior director of legislative and regulatory policy for Ohio Farm Bureau, are developing a mobile poultry processing unit in the state helping schools offer local foods in their cafeterias; and directing resources toward improving the Ohio MarketMaker program, which helps farmers connect to consumers and food businesses – and helps food businesses and consumers connect to farmers.

North Carolina Farm Bureau is involved in a wide array of rural development initiatives, said Debbie Hamrick, director of specialty crops for NCFB. They include Farm to Fork (a local foods initiative), the Farm Energy Efficiency Project, the “Strategic Plan to Protect North Carolina’s Agricultural Water Resources,” Dairy Advantage (a program designed to help stabilize and grow the state’s dairy industry), and Healthy Living for a Lifetime (which provides rural North Carolinians with free health screenings, job creation and information on leading a healthier lifestyle). She advised those interested in helping their rural communities to think outside the box. “Reach out to traditional and non-traditional partners,” she said.

Friday, January 15, 2010

President's Editorial

Putnam photo
State of the State: It Could Be A Lot Worse
by Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley

Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter presented the annual State of the State speech this week and was roundly attacked by Democrats, newspaper editors and other pundits for lack of foresight, changing his political stripes and being opportunistic and overzealous for suggesting cutbacks to state agencies and schools.

However, in our view putting all the political grandstanding aside, the Governor delivered a pragmatic, forward-looking speech. He wants Idaho residents to understand that things are probably going to get worse before they get better, but things will get better.

Gov. Otter was spot on in his assertions that the core values of Idaho residents are to remain independent, in control of their money, and that government should have a limited but well-defined role in their lives.

Taking a stand not to raisetaxes in spite of the fact that state revenues are down 19 percent over the past two fiscal years is commendable. We agree this is no time to raise taxes on cash-strapped Idaho residents, and we agree that tax increases put in place to shore up the state budget could stall economic recovery.

That leaves no alternatives other than cutbacks. Just like any family or private business out there, when revenue streams dry up, belts must be tightened. We are all concerned about adequately funding public schools and higher education. However, we must clearly understand that the school system is the largest bureaucracy inside state government, and that federal stimulus and rainy day accounts have been used to hold the K-12 school system harmless.

To date, other state agencies and services have taken the brunt of state budget cuts and holdbacks. It will be unpleasant but our schools are going to have to adapt and share some of the pain this year. Parents of school-age children must realize that changes are coming and it’s going to fall on them to pick up the slack and get more involved in their children’s education.

In a recent press release, Idaho Senate Pro Tem Bob Geddes said “. . . it’s purely the fiscal discipline of previous legislative sessions and the strong leadership of Gov. Otter that has prevented Idaho from suffering the horrendous cuts to education budgets that have befallen nearly every other state in the union.”

That’s a good way to keep things in perspective. Maintaining that fiscal discipline is more important today than it ever has been when we’re dealing with--as the governor said in his speech-- the people’s money.

American Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Seattle

Peter Ricchiuti of Tulane's Freeman School of Business
Positive Signs Ahead for Financial Markets
Seattle--A nationally known expert on financial markets encouraged Farm Bureau members to maintain their optimism because there are many positive signs for the year ahead.
Peter Ricchiuti, assistant dean of Tulane University's A.B. Freeman School of Business and the founder of Tulane’s highly acclaimed Burkenroad Reports stock research program, said the recession ended last July, but patience is needed for a full economic turnaround.
“Recessions always end and the economy always rises to a higher plateau,” Ricchiuti said at a seminar at the 91st annual meeting of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “It’s not the time to give up. You can see the beach in this.”

A major cause for optimism is that there are trillions of dollars waiting on the sidelines to be invested, Ricchiuti said.

Ricchiuti said what counts most for successful investing is corporate earnings. In addition, successful investors must be committed to long-term thinking. And through it all, investors must be dedicated to the free-enterprise system.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Just in from Washington

Karen Budd-Falen addresses the Rangeland Congress on Wednesday in Boise--Putnam photo
WLA calls for openess in government requests audit of EAJA
MORELAND–In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama, the Western Legacy Alliance applauded the President's call for transparency and requested a formal audit of the Equal Access to Justice Act based upon the initial findings of a private audit commissioned by the WLA and conducted by Budd-Falen Law Offices over a six month period of time.

The WLA and Karen Budd-Falen wanted to know how much money the federal government has paid to environmental law firms. According to Budd-Falen’s research, in the past 10 years, 1,500 cases have been filed by environmental groups against federal agencies. In addition, she has found nearly 35 million in payouts, and uncovered more than $4.7 billion in taxpayer money that the government paid to environmental law firms between 2003 and 2007; representing an average of $940 million a year, compared to $922 million spent directly on the 986 endangered and threatened species, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s annual report. Budd-Falen has created a chart outlining the number of lawsuits filed on behalf of numerous environmental organizations and special interest groups and the disbursements associated with each, which can be found at:

On his first day in office, President Obama signed a memorandum to all federal agencies directing them to break down barriers to transparency, participation, and collaboration between the federal government and the people it serves. Responding to that instruction, a reminder memorandum was issued earlier this month by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) clearly directing “executive departments and agencies to take specific actions to implement the principles set forth in the President’s Memorandum.” A full copy of the memo can be found at:

“The Western Legacy Alliance couldn’t be happier with the recent focus and push for accountability, openness and collaboration within the Federal Government. We applaud the efforts of this administration,” said Jeff Faulkner, WLA member. “Abuse of the EAJA and other federal funds has gone on for far too long. Currently, there is no accountability or reporting requirements, making it unclear how many millions or billions have been paid out. Our research has found nearly 35 million in federal payouts, but that appears to be just a glimpse of the problem.”

According to the memorandum, the three principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration form the cornerstone of an open government. The memorandum continues to note that “…transparency promotes accountability by providing the public with information about what the Government is doing. Participation allows members of the public to contribute ideas and expertise… Collaboration improves the effectiveness of Government by encouraging partnerships and cooperation within the Federal Government, across levels of government, and between the Government and private institutions.”

The WLA is working to highlight these problems and ensure equal application of EAJA across the board in conjunction with educating the public and the nation’s elected officials and demanding prompt action to ensure appropriate use and reporting of taxpayer dollars from federal programs.

Members of Congress are taking note. On November 2, 2009 members of the Congressional Western Caucus sent an open letter to the U.S. Department of Justice expressing concern to Attorney General Holder regarding the ongoing and apparent abuse of the EAJA by certain organizations including environmental and special interest groups. The Caucus highlighted the complete lack of oversight, accountability, and transparency in the overall process and allocation of funds under EAJA, which appears to have contributed to the ongoing abuse.

In addition, the Caucus requested an explanation from the DOJ regarding how the Department tracks EAJA disbursements, and if no such tracking exists the Caucus asked that a central, searchable EAJA database be created under the direction and responsibility of the DOJ.

“The WLA is encouraged that the Open Government Directive establishes deadlines for action and hope that the DOJ and Attorney General Holder will respond to the requests of the Western Caucus and begin to seriously take note of the ongoing abuse of the EAJA as well as other federal funds,” continued Faulkner.

The WLA plans to assist the Congressional Western Caucus with legislative solutions calling for EAJA transparency as well as continuing to educate the public on the abuses that jeopardize the local economies of the West.

USDA Livestock Disaster Payments Exceed $175 Million

New Program Provided Idaho producers $282,482 for Livestock Losses
Boise, Idaho Jan. 11, 2010 – Dick Rush, Executive Director of USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Idaho today announced that USDA has already made $282,482 in disaster payments to Idaho livestock producers as part of two new programs implemented in 2009. Nationally USDA has made more than $175 million in disaster payments to America's livestock producers. USDA leaders have expressed a commitment to rapidly meeting the goals of Congress and to provide farmers and ranchers with timely and effective disaster assistance. FSA is continuing to make payments to livestock producers for 2008 and 2009 livestock losses.

"Idaho's farmers and ranchers deserve efficient and effective assistance programs to help get through natural disasters," said Rush. "Idaho farmers and ranchers have suffered some extreme conditions and USDA worked hard to get these new programs up and running quickly so we could achieve our goal of helping producers recover losses rapidly and more thoroughly."

Under the standing provisions of the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP), authorized in the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (Farm Bill), producers are better able to recover from their losses stemming from 2008 and subsequent disasters. The 2008 Farm Bill provisions replace previous ad-hoc disaster assistance programs and are funded through the Agricultural Disaster Relief Trust Fund.

LIP provides payments to eligible livestock owners and contract growers who suffered eligible livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality as a direct result of an eligible adverse weather event including hurricanes, floods, blizzards, disease, wildfires and extreme heat and cold. LFP provides payments to eligible livestock producers who have suffered livestock grazing losses due to qualifying drought or fire. For drought losses, LFP eligible areas are determined using the U.S. Drought Monitor, found at the FSA website:

Eligible livestock under LIP and LFP include beef cattle, alpacas, buffalo, beefalo, dairy cattle, deer, elk, emus, equine, poultry, reindeer, sheep and swine.

LIP payments for livestock losses suffered during 2009, requires that livestock owners and contract growers file a notice of loss no later than 30 calendar days of when the loss of livestock is apparent to the producer and an application for payment no later than Jan. 30, 2010.

To be eligible for 2009 calendar year grazing losses under LFP, livestock producers must submit a completed application for payment and required supporting documentation to their administrative county FSA office no later thanJan. 30, 2010.

For more information or to apply for LIP or LFP and other USDA Farm Service Agency disaster assistance programs, visit your FSA county office or

U of I Extension News

Fruit growers seek niche markets
Parma--They’re a Peach of a crop, Parma R&E research findsIDAHO ORCHARDISTS seeking crops for narrow market time-slots and are keeping close tabs on a 50-variety peach and nectarine trial at the University of Idaho’s Parma Research and Extension Center.

“Our growers want the option to fill the market at different times,” says Essie Fallahi, the university’s fruit tree physiologist. That lets them schedule their peach and nectarine harvests around harvests of their other crops—and to aim for a moving target of days or weeks when California and Washington fruit growers are temporarily low on production.

Under Treasure Valley growing conditions, Fallahi is evaluating yellow-fleshed peaches like ‘Zee Lady’ and white-fleshed peaches like ‘Snow Giant’ as well as both yellow- and white-fleshed nectarines. When he’s sufficiently tempted by Fallahi’s results, Canyon County fruit grower Roger Williamson plants new varieties in the family’s orchards. “You’re talking about a 3-year selection process, and you’re going to live with that selection for 15 years, so you need to know as much as you can,” Williamson says.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Congress on Western Rangelands

Jake Putnam photo

Feds Spend More Money On Legal Fees than Endangered Species: Budd-Falen

Boise--Legal eagle Karen Budd-Falen is emerging as a western superstar in the world of cowboys, the range and enviornmental lawsuits. She addressed the Congress on Western Rangelands this afternoon at the Boise Centre on the Grove to a large, appreciative audience.

Falen told the range Congress that new federal reporting requirements allow her to trace the money the feds have payed out in legal fees to environmental group lawyers. She says her findings are astounding. She told the crowd that the federal government paid enviro-groups more than $4.7 billion in taxpayer money between 2003 and 2007.

What's even more astounding is that more money was paid out in legal fees than the endangered species budget. She says legal fees averaged $940 million a year , compared to $922 million spent directly on the 986 endangered and threatened species, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s annual report.

Falen's research found that three environmental groups—Western Watersheds Council, Forest Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity—filed more than 700 lawsuits against the U.S. government between 2000 and 2009.

“That money is not going into programs to protect people, wildlife, plants and animals,” Budd-Falen said, “but to fund more lawsuits.”

Budd-Falen says environmental groups are eligible for government funds under the Equal Access to Justice Act, which pays attorney fees to “prevailing parties” in cases against the government. Firms can also get government funds through the Judgment Fund, which is a line-item appropriation in the federal budget used for paying claims against the government.

Budd-Falen told the group that she is now able to track fees paid to these enviro groups in federal court. "These guys are charging between $350 and $450 an hour in legal fees.” Falen says her defense fees are a fraction of that while her clients struggle to pay their bills.

Budd-Falen went on to say that in one 15-month-long case that Earthjustice Legal Foundation and the Western Environmental Law Center filed for $479,242 in attorneys’ fees.

The Wyoming lawyer-rancher says the only way to stop this legal gravy train is to urge congress to cap legal fees. She says a Wyoming Congressmen is looking into the issue but says its all about money. “Why would you stop filing litigation when you can get that kind of money? They are not filing these suits to try and protect the environment. They are filing these suits to make money.”

Congress on Western Rangelands

Putnam photo
Otter Addresses Western Rangeland Congress
Boise--Idaho Governor Butch Otter gave an impassioned speech on the endangered species act and specifically the listing of the slickspot peppergrass on the Endangered Species Act in October.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologists wrote in the listing that the habitat continues to get worse across Idaho. Biologists added that wildfire and cheat grass continue to threaten the species. In a release in November, scientists found that cattle grazing on public land didn't greatly affect the annual flowering bush that grows in wet areas of Southwest Idaho's sagebrush desert. Governor Otter says the listing will have a serious impact on Idaho ranchers for generations.

"On November 16th, I filed a suit to challenge Interior Secretary Salazar under the Administrative Procedures act in an attempt to signal my fellow governors that if we don't draw the line here, we never will. I wanted to get this mischief stopped, because this will one of many issues we will face in the future."

Otter told the group that the Murphy Complex fire has done more to kill off slickspot peppergrass than a hundred years of grazing. He added that the fire may have triggered the endangered species listing. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that wet spots in the desert are disappearing and its hard for slickspots to come back on a burned out plain. The Governor pointed out that Owyhee County ranchers stepped up and helped organize their neighbors to take a series of actions so their cattle would not disturb the plant in the spring when it is flowering and going to seed. But those efforts were ignored by U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

"Its worth preserving these efforts, to show that we care about this, those of us born of the land that live and die on the land we care about this. But we have to have leeway to do so," said Otter. "If you take nothing away from this, you need to tell your governors, congressmen that we need a dog in this fight. I understand the fundamental values, it’s the 10 Amendment to the Constitution, if we don’t challenge this now, we will be hard spent to challenge anything again."

American Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Seattle

Terry Bradshaw address the AFBF annual meeting in Seattle, Ag wired, Chuck Zimmerman photo.
Gridiron Great Terry Bradshaw Says ‘Go For It’ in Life
SEATTLE--Terry Bradshaw, four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, two-time Super Bowl “Most Valuable Player” and Pro Football Hall of Fame member, used humorous stories from his days on the field to inspire farmers and ranchers during his keynote address at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 91st annual meeting.

“There’s no third half in football or in life. Go for it!” Bradshaw said, as he encouraged attendees to always be thankful for what they have and persevere no matter the situation.
Recalling some of his own struggles growing up in Louisiana, in relationships and as others doubted his intelligence, Bradshaw said always counting his blessings in life and keeping a smile on his face gave him confidence.

“People like a happy person! Learn to smile, no matter how bad things get. Nothing happens to any of us in life that can’t be turned around,” Bradshaw said.

The owner of an 800-acre ranch, where he raises cattle and breeds horses, Bradshaw garnered applause from Farm Bureau members with his understanding of modern agriculture and when he noted, “Farming is an addiction to be proud of.”

“You’re blessed for doing what you love to do…what you’re called to do,” Bradshaw said.
Commenting on the tough year many farmers, particularly dairy farmers and hog producers, have weathered, Bradshaw said he wanted to quit many times in life but kept going.
“Your brilliance and the fact that you never lose focus will help you climb out of this hole,” he said.

Bradshaw’s comment “the better you are, the more people take potshots at you” struck a chord with farmers and ranchers, many of whom are contending with anti-agriculture extremists.
Renowned for his professional accomplishments in NFL football and sports broadcasting, Bradshaw has also earned acclaim as an inspirational speaker, actor, author and gospel/country singer.

The onlyNFL player with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the 6’3” Bradshaw was the first player chosen in the 1970 draft and became one of the most prolific quarterbacks in history. He was the first quarterback to win four Super Bowl championships (1975, 1976, 1979 and 1980), a feat that has been duplicated only once, 10 years later, by Joe Montana. Bradshaw holds the Super Bowl passing records for average gain per attempt in career (11.10 yards) and average gain in a game (14.71 yards in Super Bowl XIV). He was also a four-time All-Pro. He retired from the NFL prior to the 1984 season.

A native of Shreveport, La., Bradshaw attended college at Louisiana Tech, where he still holds the single-season passing and total offense records. He was a first-team Associated Press All-American as a senior in 1970 and later that year received a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Louisiana Tech. He now lives in Texas.

American Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Seattle

Courtesy of Chuck Zimmerman,Ag Wired
Climate Bill, Federal Debt Top Concerns of AFBF Delegates
Seattle--Delegates at the 91st American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting voted to oppose cap-and-trade climate legislation and to support balancing the federal budget over the next eight years.

The delegates approved a special resolution stating that cap-and-trade legislation would raise farmers’ and ranchers’ production costs, and the potential benefits of agricultural offsets are far outweighed by the costs to producers. Due to these and other concerns, the delegates strongly opposed “cap and trade proposals before Congress” and supported “any legislative action that would suspend EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.”

“As Congress returns to the issue of cap-and-trade this year, the message of Farm Bureau will continue to be: ‘Don’t Cap Our Future’ agricultural productivity and food security,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “We will now send that message even more strongly.”

“Congress should focus on renewable energy that is better for the environment and our domestic energy security,” he added, “but it should not tie the hands of U.S. producers, whose productivity, historically, has provided the world’s food safety net. We should not shrink U.S. agriculture at the very time when many are concerned about how to feed a growing global population.”

Stallman was re-elected as AFBF president for a sixth two-year term. He is a cattle and rice producer from Columbus, Texas, and previously served as Texas Farm Bureau president. In addition, Barry Bushue was re-elected to a second two-year term as AFBF vice president. Bushue is a berry and nursery plant producer from Boring, Ore., and also serves as Oregon Farm Bureau president. Both re-elections were unanimous.

The delegates said the federal deficit should be reduced each year, reaching a fully balanced budget by 2019. They said that federal spending on government services and entitlements must be reduced.

“Unless we want to saddle our children and grandchildren with a crippling debt to foreign governments,” said Stallman, “we have to get the federal budget under control. We are looking at a current deficit of more than a trillion dollars. The United States must tighten its belt and we all must make sacrifices in order for the U.S. to maintain economic security.”

The delegates also called for meaningful relief from the estate tax, with no conditions or qualifications. They said that an increase in the overall exemption would be Farm Bureau’s main priority. They also reaffirmed their support for full stepped-up basis at the time of death in order to reduce the capital gains tax burden on farm and ranch heirs. Also on taxes, the delegates opposed the imposition of any health-related taxes on foods or beverages.

The delegates approved policy supporting changes to the Federal Milk Marketing Order structure, formulas and price classes used to compute milk prices, in order for those prices to reflect current market conditions, enhance transparency and account for regional differences in the cost of milk production. However, they rejected dairy supply management as a means to bolster dairy product prices, saying that Farm Bureau remains supportive of a market-oriented dairy program.

On farm policy, the delegates affirmed their support for the current farm program and continued their support for a mandatory country-of-origin labeling program, as enacted in the 2008 farm bill. They also called for a workable ad hoc disaster program and approved a new policy calling for a specialty crops title in future farm bills, along with additional research programs and promotion of U.S. specialty crops.

In response to media mislabeling of the H1N1 virus as “swine flu” and the severe impact that has had on pork demand, the delegates urged the news media to use the correct scientific terminology in referring to animal and plant health issues.

At this AFBF annual meeting, 369 voting delegates representing every state and agricultural commodity deliberated on policies affecting farmers’ and ranchers’ productivity and profitability. The policies approved at the annual meeting will guide the national farm organization’s legislative and regulatory efforts throughout 2010

Farm Economy News

Steve Ritter photo
Idaho agricultural production slips 17% to $5.4 billion. Crop diversity helps

Moscow--Net farm income fell dramatically in 2009 according to a report just released by the University of Idaho. According to university economists, net farm income, the real measure of how Idaho farmers and ranchers performed, fell 47% from $1.904 billion in 2008, to just $1.018 billion in 2009.

"When you take dairy out of the stats, it wasnt too bad of a year," said wheat farmer Robert Blair of Kendrick. "The report is a little better at second glance, but it still worries me."

"Agriculture as a diverse industry is a strong stabilizing force in Idaho's overall economy," says college dean John Hammel, "while individual growers experience volatility in the commodity market prices and increasing costs of inputs, both factors that affect their net incomes."

It was the biggest decline in 40 years, reflecting a tough year for the state's dairy, livestock and some crop sectors. Even though much of the double-digit increases from the prior two years disappeared, receipts remain 16.6% above 2006. But expenses, things like fuel and fertilizer jumped 27% during the same time period. Some of the decline in net farm income in 2009 can be attributed to this increase in production expenses says Bob Smathers, Idaho Farm Bureau Regional Manager in Northern Idaho. Net Farm Income is the return to farm operators for their labor, management and capital after all production expenses have been paid.

Farm jobs, one of the most stable parts of Idaho agriculture is suffering as growers struggle to adjust skyrocketing expenses. But while there is room for labor force reductions, cutting back labor, fuel and chemicals can only go so far, since cattle must continue to be fed and crops tended.

"Can we maintain the status quo to get through these tough economic times, because market prices are flat, you start looking at this, its darned scary," said Blair.
Among crops, potatoes ranked as sales leader, bringing home $796 million, up $15 million, or 2 percent, from 2008.Onions, sugar beets up. Sugar beet cash receipts provided the sweet spot among crops. Revenue soared 70 percent to $252 million, a $105 million increase from the previous year. Onion producers enjoyed a 43 percent increase in cash receipts to $43 million from $30 million in 2008. But livestock cash receipts fell 23 percent in 2009. Milk cash receipts dropped $698 million to $1.4 billion, the lowest total since 2004. Cattle and calf sales, primarily beef, dipped nearly $100 million to $1.09 billion, an 8 percent decline.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

American Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Seattle

Courtesy of Chuck Zimmerman of Ag Wired
Farm Bureau Delegates Send Strong Climate Message
SEATTLE--Farm and ranch delegates at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting today unanimously approved a special resolution to strongly oppose "cap and trade proposals before Congress" and strongly support "any legislative action that would suspend (the Environmental Protection Agency's) authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act."

The 369 delegates, reiterating the theme of a successful campaign kicked off this fall, said: "Don't cap our future."

The resolution asserted that proposed cap and trade legislation would result in significantly higher production costs for farmers, and that potential benefits of agricultural offsets are far outweighed by the costs.

"The administration's economic projections show that the proposed cap and trade legislation would result in planting trees on 59 million acres of crop and pasture land thereby damaging the capability of U.S. agricultural producers to feed a growing world population and create the conditions for (hiking) consumer food prices," according to the resolution. "Cap and trade legislation would eliminate jobs, and could result in the loss of 2.3 million jobs in the U.S. over the next 20 years."

The delegates cited recent developments in the climate change debate as reasons to re-emphasize their opposition.

"E-mails made public, call into question just how unsettled the science really is on climate change and demonstrate the unwillingness of many of the world's climatologists to share data or even entertain opposing viewpoints," the delegates stated. "The recently completed Copenhagen summit resulted in demands for the U.S. to transfer billions of dollars to the developing world to fight climate change, but produced no meaningful agreement."

Statehouse New wing, Garden Level

Boise--The Idaho Statehouse stands gleaming and new. This is the Garden level where the House and Senate hold their committees. The Lobbyist at the end of the Hallway is trying to get in through locked doors.

U of I Extension News

Upcoming 4-H Beef Camp Highlights End Product Quality

Challis--4-H and FFA members enrolled in market beef projects are encouraged to attend the upcoming Beef Camp, scheduled for January 23, at the Lincoln County Fair Grounds in Shoshone, Idaho.

This hands-on educational program will focus on end product quality and feature speakers from the University of Idaho Extension Beef Team, including Sarah Baker (Custer County), Tianna Fife (Twin Falls County), and Cindy Kinder of Gooding County.

The morning session is sponsored by Idaho Beef Producers, through a grant from the Idaho Beef Council.Topics include Selecting Market Steers, How Feeding Affects Your Placing in Quality Class, Measuring Carcass Quality, and Factors That Determine Meat Quality. Lunch, sponsored by the United Dairymen of Idaho/Meadow Gold of Twin Falls and the Richfield Wranglers 4-H Club, will be served on site. Following lunch, afternoon sessions will focus on halter breaking calves, showmanship, and weighing and measuring feeds.

All counties are welcome and encouraged to attend. For more information, or to register, please contact the Lincoln County Extension office at 208-886-2406, or visit the Beef Team’s website at:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Idaho Statehouse from the Garden Level

From the Garden level, one can look up and see the Statehouse Capitol Dome. This photo was taken from the House side.

Just in from the Statehouse

Governor Butch Otter's State of the State Address: Expect Budget and Job Cuts

Boise--In a shinning, refurbished Statehouse Gov. Butch Otter delivered the annual State of the State address to a packed House. The Governor stressed to lawmakers that they shouldn't raise taxes during a time when the state is experiencing falling tax revenues. For the first time in decades, told public schools that they too can expect budget cuts.

"It is not our place to impose an additional economic burden on the people of Idaho who already are struggling or to put a damper on our economic recovery," Otter said.

Governor Otter submitted a budget based flat revenue growth in fiscal 2011 and called on state agencies to cut more than 400 jobs and not filling vacant jobs."We must to whatever we can do to avoid an duplication of effort or any waste of the taxpayers' hard earned dollars," he said.

Otter added that the state will have to take cash from the rainy-day funds sometime during the fiscal year starting July 1 — but cautioned that the state needs to keep money in reserve if the economy doesn't turn around quickly.

Over all, Otter proposed a $40 million cut from all state agencies and operations this fiscal year including 1.6 percent cut in public schools. Lawmakers must approve the hold backs once they're back in session. in addition Otter asked for approval of hold backs he announced back in September that averaged 4 percent.

After the second longest legislative session in 2009, Otter called for an amicable, short legislature and promised to keep his door open to lawmakers.

Idaho Legislature Opens Today

Jake Putnam photo
Otter to Unveil Budget Plans This Morning
Boise--Idaho Governor “Butch” Otter says budget cuts are unavoidable this legislative session and will unveil the details later this morning later this morning at the annual State of the State address at the remodeled Idaho Statehouse.

The Governor says despite signs of economic recovery, chronic revenue shortfalls means more 2010 budget cuts in what promises to be another long, contentious legislative session.

The cuts come in addition to the four-percent holdback the governor ordered in September, and says public education won't be spared.
Otter said, “If you have to make cuts in the budget, you have to go where the money is, and 52 percent of the money is in K-12. Otherwise you have to make major, major cuts in the other areas.”

Governor Otter says he and legislative leaders also agree the budget for fiscal year 2011, which starts July First, will be a no-growth budget, no larger than fiscal 2010's.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

2010 Snow Pack below normal, thus far

Ron Abramovich measures water content of snow at More's Creek Summit, Jake Putnam photo
More Winter Storms needed to put water supply on track

Boise– The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) December snow survey shows current snowpacks in Idaho are 45-80% of average but only 20-30% of their seasonal peaks which occur in early April. Snow surveys are conducted at the end of each month from December through May to make snow runoff predictions and water supply forecasts used in managing Idaho’s water resources.

“Don’t be tricked by December’s cold temperatures,” said Ron Abramovich, NRCS Water Supply Specialist. “Those cold temperatures were accompanied by below normal precipitation. Currently, the snowpacks across the state are shallow.”

November, December and January are generally Idaho's biggest precipitation months, but November and December did not come through. November precipitation amounts were only 20-30% of average across southern Idaho and 40-60% in central and northern Idaho. December temperatures set record lows at many of Idaho’s SNOTEL sites; precipitation ranged from 45% of average to near average.

“With more than half the winter still to come, the water supply picture will hopefully improve,” added Abramovich. “Above average precipitation will be needed for the next three months to reach average snow water content amounts in the mountains by April,”

The highest snowpacks are 75-80% of average in the Panhandle region and the Weiser, Owyhee and Oakley basins. The lowest snowpacks are 45-55% of average in the Little Wood, Willow, Blackfoot, Portneuf and Bear basins, as well as the critical Snake River Basin above Palisades Reservoir. Elsewhere, snowpacks are 58-68% of average.

New Snow Survey Products and Updates
Two new streamflow forecasts were developed for the Gros Ventre River and Buffalo Fork, both tributary drainages to Upper Snake River in Wyoming.

NRCS installed a new SNOTEL site to automate the Pierce Ranger Station Snow Course originally established in 1951. Located in the Clearwater basin at an elevation of 3,080 feet, the site represents the mid-elevation area in the basin. Hourly data is available from our Web page for the soil moisture/temperature and snow depth along with snow water equivalent, precipitation, and air temperature.

Snow measurements have been discontinued at the Corner Creek and Sage Creek Saddle snow courses near Coeur d'Alene. These sites were originally established for a research project but are no longer needed. The two scheduled measurements at these sites will be estimated this year. Next year the sites will be removed from our reports.

Interesting and informative data, graphs and maps are available from our snow survey Web pages and are a great way to keep abreast of current conditions as they change throughout the year. Click on For more information about snowpack, precipitation, runoff and water supplies for specific basins, please view the complete January 2010 Water Supply Outlook Report online at and click on the ‘Water Supply’ link.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Marketing News

Bob Smathers photo
Idaho Farmers Brush up On Marketing

Lewiston--Idaho Farm Bureau members had the chance to brush up on marketing skills on Tuesday in Lewiston at the annual Idaho Farm Bureau marketing seminar. Marketing expert Clark Johnston spoke to a group of growers. In his presentation, he covered stock-to-use ratios, inverse markets, carry charge markets, basis and hedging.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Just in from the Statehouse

BOISE - Governor Butch Otter told lawmakers to tighten their fiscal belts, saying he will add additional budget cuts. Otter suggested a 4% cutback in September, but hinted that his State of the State and budget address on Monday that he will ask for even more.

"We will be announcing for 2011, a NO-GROWTH budget." Otter said that while unemployment numbers are still high in Idaho, and cutbacks will be hard to deal with, there is still reason for "cautious optimism" as well.

Jake Putnam photo
Idaho Agriculture Stumbles in 2009 Tripped Up by Low Commodity Prices
Written by Bill Loftus

MOSCOW, Idaho – Idaho agriculture's projected cash receipts for 2009 dropped 17 percent to $5.4 billion from 2008, the largest single-year decline in more than 40 years. A tough year for Idaho's dairy, livestock and some key crop sectors determined the industry's overall performance.

Even though much of the double-digit increases in total revenues of the previous two years evaporated, receipts are still 16.6 percent above 2006. Unfortunately, expenses rose 27 percent during the same time period.

The annual economic analysis, "The Financial Condition of Idaho Agriculture: 2009 Projections," was released Wednesday by the University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

John Hammel, the college's dean, presented the analysis to the Joint Legislative Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee Wednesday at Boise.

"Agriculture as a diverse industry is a strong stabilizing force in Idaho's overall economy while individual growers experience volatility in the commodity market prices and increasing costs of inputs, both factors that affect their net incomes," Hammel said.

The picture painted by the numbers is that even a down year for one sector, livestock, is partially offset by another, crops, which declined 11 percent, half of livestock's 23 percent drop. Diversity is a key to the industry's overall economic performance.

Jobs are also part of agriculture's stabilizing effect on Idaho's economy. Farmers and ranchers may cut back and cut some jobs, but cattle still must be fed and crops planted and harvested.

Net farm income, the ultimate measure of Idaho agriculture's performance for farmers and ranchers, dropped 47 percent to $1.018 billion from $1.904 billion in 2008.

Net farm income showed the industry's volatility in recent years. In 2006 net farm income dropped 20 percent, in 2007 it surged 71 percent and in 2008 it rose 19 percent.

The numbers reveal a key factor that contributes to the agricultural industry overall stability, said report co-author Garth Taylor, an economist in the UI Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology at Moscow.

"To me it shows how mobile farmers are," Taylor said. "They'll shift around and grow different crops to respond to market conditions. Sugarbeets were a prime example of that during 2009," he said.

Higher cash receipts for sugarbeets, barley, potatoes, onions, and greenhouse and nursery crops helped stabilize agriculture's overall performance during a dramatic downturn for its livestock industry.

Crops generated more cash, $2.745 billion compared to livestock's $2.610 billion, for the first time since 2000. Livestock receipts dropped 23 percent, led by a decline in milk receipts fall from $2.1 billion to $1.4 billion or one third. Cattle and calves declined 8 percent or $98 million to $1.085 billion.

Sugarbeets provided the 2009's sweet spot for Idaho growers, who harvested 47,000 more acres, produced 55 percent more sugarbeets and enjoyed an 11 percent average price increase. Those factors boosted sugarbeet receipts to $252 million, a 72 percent increase from the previous year.

Barley production rose an estimated 3 percent and growers reaped a 5 percent price increase, boosting receipts 12 percent in 2009 to $259 million.

Potatoes generated $796 million, a 2 percent increase from 2008, to remain Idaho's top cash crop. Record yields averaging 411 hundredweight per acre helped grow overall production 13 percent, which offset a 1 percent decline in average prices for 2009.

Onions yielded a 43 percent or $13 million increase in cash receipts for growers in 2009, reflecting a 5 percent increase in production and higher prices.

Drops for wheat and hay, the state's No. 2 and No. 3 crops, tempered gains by other crops. The value of wheat sales fell 28 percent or $195 million to $512 million. Reflecting weak demand from dairies, hay receipts fell 40 percent or $270 million to $406 million.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Just in from Washington

EPA Strengthens Smog Standards

Washington--The United States Environmental Protection Agency today proposed the strictest health standards to date for smog. Smog, also known as ground-level ozone, is linked to a number of serious health problems, ranging from aggravation of asthma to increased risk of premature death in people with heart or lung disease. Ozone can even harm healthy people who work and play outdoors.

The agency is proposing to replace the standards set by the previous administration, which many believe were not protective enough of human health. “EPA is stepping up to protect Americans from one of the most persistent and widespread pollutants we face. Smog in the air we breathe poses a very serious health threat, especially to children and individuals suffering from asthma and lung disease. It dirties our air, clouds our cities, and drives up our health care costs across the country,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Using the best science to strengthen these standards is a long overdue action that will help millions of Americans breathe easier and live healthier.”

Just in from Washington

Steve Ritter photo
Tracking Milk and Egg Trends
Washington--For the fourth quarter of 2009, shoppers reported the average price for a half-gallon of regular whole milk was $1.99, up 10 cents from the prior quarter. The average price for one gallon of regular whole milk was $3.04, up 17 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 $3.08, down 24 cents from the last quarter and about 55 percent higher than the reported retail price for a half-gallon of regular milk ($1.99).

The average price for a half-gallon of organic milk was $3.57, down 20 cents compared to the third quarter – about 80 percent higher than the reported retail price for a half-gallon of regular milk ($1.99).

Compared to a year ago (fourth quarter of 2008), the retail price for regular milk in gallon containers decreased by 20 percent while regular milk in half-gallon containers decreased 16 percent. The average retail price for rBST-free milk dropped about 11 percent in a year’s time. The average retail price for organic milk in half-gallon containers dropped about 4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009 compared to the prior year.

For the fourth quarter of 2009, the average price for one dozen regular eggs was $1.55. The average price for “cage-free” eggs was $2.77 per dozen, about 80 percent more per dozen than regular eggs. Compared to a year ago (fourth quarter of 2008), regular eggs declined 13 percent while “cage-free” eggs declined 9 percent.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Statehouse in Fog

Statehouse in Fog, Jan 6th10, originally uploaded by Jake Putnam.

A shinny, new Statehouse stands like a beacon on a cold, foggy morning the week before the start of the 2010 session.
--Jake Putnam photo

Just in from Washington

Steve Ritter photo
Staple Food Prices Trend Down for 5th Straight Quarter

WASHINGTON--Retail food prices at the supermarket decreased for the fifth consecutive quarter and are significantly lower than one year ago, 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 $42.90, down $3.13 from the third quarter of 2009 and $7.31 lower or about 15 percent less compared to one year ago. Of the 16 items surveyed, 11 decreased, four increased and one remained the same in average price compared to the prior quarter.

Russet potatoes, shredded cheddar cheese, deli ham, flour, bacon and boneless chicken breasts declined the most in dollar value from quarter-to-quarter. Potatoes dropped 47 cents for a 5-pound bag to $2.18; shredded cheddar cheese dropped 43 cents per pound to $3.65; sliced deli ham dropped 40 cents per pound to $4.35; flour dropped 38 cents to $2.10 for a 5-pound bag; bacon dropped 37 cents to $3.00 per pound; and boneless chicken breasts dropped 37 cents per pound to $2.71.

“The 2009 U.S. potato harvest set a yield record for the sixth consecutive year. As a result, processors paid lower wholesale prices to potato farmers, which in turn benefitted consumers as grocers dropped retail prices,” said AFBF Economist Stefphanie Gambrell. “Sluggish consumer demand, particularly for meats and dairy products, also played a role in the lower retail grocery prices reported this quarter.”

Other items that decreased in price were sirloin tip roast, down 27 cents to $3.60 per pound; vegetable oil, down 21 cents to $2.51 for a 32-oz. bottle; apples, down 21 cents to $1.25 per pound; bagged salad, down 20 cents to $2.57 for a 1-pound bag; and orange juice, down 20 cents to $2.93 for a half-gallon.

Compared to a year ago, potatoes decreased 35 percent; shredded cheddar cheese decreased 26 percent; chicken breasts decreased 22 percent; vegetable oil decreased 21 percent; and whole milk decreased 20 percent according to AFBF’s survey.

“Again this quarter and compared to one year ago, Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers found that the foods that declined the most in average retail price are among the least-processed items in our marketbasket,” Gambrell said.

Four foods went up slightly in price compared to the prior quarter: milk, up 17 cents to $3.04 per gallon; eggs, up 11 cents to $1.55 per dozen; white bread, up 6 cents to $1.82 for a 20-oz. loaf; and ground chuck, up 4 cents to $2.69 per pound. Toasted oat cereal remained the same in price compared to the prior quarter, at $2.95 for a 9-oz. box.

Compared to one year ago, none of the items in the survey increased in retail price.
The year-to-year direction of the marketbasket survey tracks with the federal government’s Consumer Price Index ( report for food at home, although Farm Bureau’s reports a sharper decline. 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.

“Beginning 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. Since then, that figure has decreased steadily and now stands at just 19 percent, according to Agriculture Department statistics,” Gambrell said.

Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this quarter’s $42.90 marketbasket would be $8.15.

Further, according to USDA, the average price farmers received for their products from November to December, as well as compared to a year ago, remained flat or showed negligible changes.

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 99 shoppers in 32 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in early November.


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