Sunday, February 28, 2010

Farm Bureau Editorial

Punishing Employers Won’t Correct Immigration Woes

by Frank Priestley, Idaho Farm Bureau President

Legislation currently under consideration at the Idaho Statehouse would punish employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers. On the surface this legislation appears to address a serious problem. We recognize the many societal concerns that illegal immigration presents and we share the frustration that has brought this legislation to the forefront.

However, we urge legislators and all Idaho residents to proceed with caution. This legislation could punish businesses to the point of shutting them down for violating rules that are nearly impossible to comply with. Punishing employers won’t in any way reduce the demand for general labor in this country. What it will do however, is cause severe economic duress on businesses that are among the most important to Idaho and this nation’s flagging economy. In Idaho we are talking about agriculture, mainly dairy and row crops, service industries tied to tourism like restaurants and hotels, and construction.

Stopping the surge of undocumented aliens into the U.S. will take a unified effort from all 50 states, Congress and the American people. Estimates suggest there are somewhere between eight and 12 million undocumented aliens in the U.S. at the present time. And in spite of millions of dollars of investment to strengthen our borders, they continue to trespass every single day.

Many immigrants cross our borders seeking the opportunity to provide a day’s work in exchange for a day’s pay. However, we know there are also many others who cross with less honorable intentions. From a law enforcement perspective, this problem is multifaceted and impossible to solve on the state level.

This is a land of great opportunity for people coming from the many poverty-stricken regions of Latin America. People who come from poverty are eager for jobs most Americans wouldn’t consider. Many of those jobs are in agriculture and American agriculture needs those workers if we are to continue to produce a healthy, safe, affordable, abundant food supply. However, we want those workers to be here legally and with proper documentation. We support reforming immigration laws that give farm workers the chance to legally enter the U.S. and creation of a guest worker program that works for employers and employees.

Misguided legislation that attacks the symptoms of a problem, in this case the taking of business licenses from employers who hire workers with improper documents, but creates no real solution is never a good idea. During an economic recession it’s even worse. It’s time for Congress to step up with a solution to this national problem.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Social Media invade the Ag World

A crash course on social media
Social networking sites:

Facebook: An online community for people to connect or re-connect with others. Allowing users to share videos,
pictures and information about themselves, it is one of the fastest growing social networks of the past two years.
LinkedIn: A professional online community used to network with fellow professionals; an online resume sharing site.
YouTube: An online site for uploading and discussing videos. Videos can also be embedded from You-Tube onto other social media sites such as blogs or social networks. Flickr: Online site for storing, sharing and commenting on photos. Twitter: A micro-blogging community where posts, called Tweets, are 140 characters or less.

Blogs: Web sites with dated items of content in reverse chronological order, self-published by bloggers. Feed: Content served at regular intervals, such as the latest articles from a blog or status updates by your friends on Facebook.

Friend (noun): A person with whom you have a mutually agreed connection.
Friend (verb): The act of adding a person to your social graph on a particular social network, as in “Friend me on Facebook.”

Hashtag: Similar to regular tags, these are keywords assigned to an item of content with a hash mark (#) attached
to the front of the word. Hashtags make it easier to follow a topic of interest on Twitter.

Network: A Facebook term for a broader social grouping such as a city, large company or university. Profile: The online representation of an individual’s, group’s or company’s identity.

Social media, a term used to describe tools and platforms people use to produce, publish and share online content and to interact with one another, has a language all its own. Below the list of the most prominent social networking sites are key social media terms.

Ranch and Farm Technology

Farmers and Ranchers add Social Media to Farm Chores

Boise--Allison Touchstone of Boise works for the U of I Agriculture Extension office and she's connected. She's constantly in touch with her Future Farmer of America members and other like-minded folks in the agriculture world by Facebook.

"Facebook is a powerful networking tool," she says in an interview conducted from Facebook chat. "The potential is limitless, the younger farmers that are more tech-savy are in and in touch. I would like to see more veteran farmers participate and network this way for mentoring young farmers."

From cell phones, smart phones, PDAs, laptops and desktops, billions of people connect to the Internet each day to access instant information. On Google alone there are more than 250 million searches each day.

With a nod to the increasing prominence of social media in people’s lives, Google’s search results include links to blogs and Twitter posts. The opportunities that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter provide to connect directly with—and even influence—individuals and communities that would otherwise be unreachable because of time or geography are not lost on agricultural producers.

According to a 2009 American Farm Bureau Federation survey of young farmers and ranchers, among the 92 percent of farmers and ranchers aged 18-35 who use computers, 46 percent regularly plug in to some form of social media.

While a number of growers use social media to connect with fellow producers and ag supporters, many are engaging in conversations with people who hold different opinions, but who want information straight from the farmers’ mouth, or keyboard. And considering the numerous activist groups who use social media to plant seeds of doubt about modern farming, their presence is vital.

It is also powerful, as a Google Update search of the phrase “yellow tail,” as in Yellow Tail Wine, shows. News earlier this month that Yellow Tail Wine was donating $100,000 to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) got farmers and ranchers buzzing, blogging, Facebooking and Tweeting. Numerous posts were made to Yellow Tail’s Facebook page, the newly created Facebook group “Yellow Fail” gathered more than 3,200 fans and the donation was the topic of many blog posts and updates on Twitter.

Most of the posts focused on three main points: people enjoy the company’s wine but will think twice about their future purchases; requests to the company to reconsider the HSUS donation; and suggestions that the company focus its donations on local animal shelters.

Facebook, Twitter and blogs weren’t the only social media stages on which this drama played out. South Dakota rancher Troy Hadrick’s YouTube video has been viewed more than 8,000 times. In the 53-second video, Hadrick, standing with his cattle, tells of his frustration with Yellow Tail’s donation and pours a bottle of the company’s wine into the snow.
Hadrick now says checking fences and facebook is part of his daily routine. "Both are now on my chore list. We do these things to advocate and educate about agriculture off the ranch and we're finding that they have just as much impact as the work we do on the ranch."

“They are paying attention, folks!” blogger Amanda Nolz wrote in the Beef Daily Blog. “It will be interesting to see what they do next as a result of this massive response from agriculture standing up against their partnership with HSUS, an organization with a main mission to abolish meat, dairy and eggs from the American diet, while putting farmers and ranchers out of business.”
Yellow Tail ultimately went ahead with its donation, emphasizing that the one-time contribution was made to HSUS’ Animal Rescue Team and will be used to help animals in disasters. However, the winemaker announced last week that it would not donate to HSUS or any other political group in the future.

Through an effort that started off with a handful of 140 character-or-less Tweets and a few postings on Facebook, farmers and ranchers put an international company on notice and changed the course of its future donations. "I'm excited that Yellow Tail finally realized the mistake they made and acknowledged that they will never again support the HSUS or any other political animal rights organization," said Hadrick. "It goes to show that when we work together in agriculture we can make a big difference."

“The social media doesn’t have that. It’s individuals expressing their opinion and what’s interesting is consumers are part of this dialogue.” For these reasons Truitt said it’s critical that growers put themselves out there. “That means get online and get on board,” he said. “It doesn’t even cost any money, so all it takes is a little bit of time, a little bit of education, and once you do that you’ll find that you can become part of a conversation that reaches consumers in a new way.”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gem County Farm Bureau News

Gem County Farmers Attend Commodity Conference
By Steve Ritter

Emmett--Clark Johnston of Johnston & Christensen management of Clearfield Utah spent the afternoon talking to Gem County farmers about the ever changing commodity markets. The general message to the group was to pay attention to world markets and buy or sell at key times when supply and demand affects prices the most. Farmers who follow Clark's advice say it does make a difference in the bottom line.

Johnston and Farm Bureau Director of Commodities & Marketing Gary Fuhriman will hold another seminar tomorrow in Payette County.

Stallman: New H-2A regulations make it harder to put food on table
Washington--New rules for the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program, released by the Labor Department on Feb. 12, will make the program more difficult than ever to use, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

Among the changes is a requirement that farmer employers who seek H-2A visas for agricultural workers provide documented evidence that they have looked for qualified U.S. citizens to fill the jobs. Previously, employers only had to indicate they had looked for qualified workers.

“There continues to be a labor shortage in U.S. agriculture and agricultural employers need an efficient, affordable temporary worker program to help put food on Americans’ tables,” Stallman said. “Even with the slower economy, farm labor remains physically demanding, periodic, all weather work and it is often impossible for farmers and ranchers to find the workers they need.”
Growers had urged the Obama administration to curtail or modify the H-2A program so it would be easier to find farm workers, but Stallman said the new regulation, effective March 15, undoes a number of improvements the department put in place last year and will only compound existing labor shortages.

The Labor Department is also poised to release a rule determining the minimum amount agricultural employers must pay their H-2A workers. “Employers want to pay a fair wage, embodied in what’s known as the ‘prevailing wage,’ or the going rate for the area,” explained Ron Gaskill, AFBF labor and immigration policy specialist. “Requiring them to pay more than that, as it looks like the department will do, could price them out of the program.”

Stallman emphasized agricultural employers’ commitment to hire only those who are eligible to work in this country, but said lawmakers must be equally committed to ensuring capable, dependable and willing employees can come to the U.S. temporarily to do the jobs that domestic workers don’t want.

“The ball is now in the court of the Congress to do what the administration has failed to do: to create a meaningful guest worker program that works fairly and honorably for employers and employees alike, thereby encouragingeconomic growth and more new jobs in an industry that is essential to nourishing a growing world population,” Stallman said.

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are working on a bipartisan immigration reform bill designed to address the status of millions of illegal immigrants in the U.S., increase employer enforcement and, foremost on farmers’ and ranchers’ minds, tackle how best to bring legal foreign workers into the U.S.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Idaho Statehouse News

Rep. Mack Shirley, (R-Rexburg) Miss Idaho Kara Jackson, and Rich Jarvis, (R-Meridian) talk before the Jackson proclamation that was passed by the house recognizing Miss Idaho for being a positive role model and Ag Educator. (Ritter photo)
Miss Idaho Recognized for Ag Education Work by Legislature

Boise--Miss Idaho, Kara Jackson was recognized the Idaho House and Senate for her Agriculture Education platform this past year as Miss Idaho.
"It was so awesome to see how supportive all the legislators are of my platform and all the effort I have made to ensure agriculture has a future," said Jackson after lawmakers recognized her in the House Gallery.
The Meridian co-ed spent the past year speaking to groups about her unique pageant platform: "Modern Agriculture: Supporting and Sustaining Society". Her goal was to teach kids where their food comes from and the importance of farming in our lives.
"There are a lot of things kids need to realize but the most important thing is everything we eat comes from a farm," said Jackson. "There's a real disconnect there from agriculture. Kids just aren’t making the connection that everything they’re eating throughout the day, the clothes they wear, houses they live in, are all products of the agriculture industry."
As Jackson's Miss Idaho rein draws to a close she's continuing her Ag agenda, she's working to get a farm animal exhibit at the Boise Zoo and was named to the Ada County Farm Bureau Board of Directors, one of the youngest directors ever in Ada County.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Food Check-Out Week Feb. 21-27th

New Food Check-Out Week Facebook Page Launched
WASHINGTON--The American Farm Bureau Federation and the Soybean Checkoff recently launched a new joint Internet Facebook page to promote national Food Check-Out Week, February 21-27. The week recognizes and celebrates the commitment of America’s farmers and ranchers to producing safe, healthy and abundant food. The week’s official theme is “Stretching Your Grocery Dollar with Healthy, Nutritious Food,” in recognition of the current economic conditions.

During Food Check-Out Week, AFBF has committed to donate $1 to Ronald McDonald House Charities for every person who becomes a fan of the new Facebook page (, up to $5,000.

By lending support to this important cause the Soybean Checkoff will help demonstrate that America’s soybean farmers remain committed to producing a safe, healthy, abundant and affordable supply of soy, used as a leading protein source to produce such things as nutritious meat and as healthy oil used in hundreds of foods.

Food Check-Out Week allows U.S. soybean farmers the opportunity to share with consumers that both groups face similar issues–putting nutritious meals on the table while sticking to a tight budget.“We are thankful to have partners such as the Soybean Checkoff as part of this new awareness effort, which will benefit the Galveston Ronald McDonald House directly while also raising awareness about Ronald McDonald House Charities overall,” said Terry Gilbert, a Kentucky farmer and chair of the AFB Women’s Leadership Committee.

United Soybean Board farmer-leader Mary Lou Smith, a soybean farmer from Petersburg, Mich., said the partnership is an important link educating consumers on the importance of U.S. animal agriculture and the role of America’s farmers in providing other safe and nutritious foods.

“The checkoff plays a key role in educating dietitians, health professionals, schools and the entire food chain that the American farmer produces the safest food in the world,” said Smith. “It’s important consumers understand the importance of supporting U.S. animal agriculture for continuing to have access to the highest quality meat and dairy but also in sustaining the U.S. soybean industry and other interrelated industries.”

The Galveston Ronald McDonald House in Texas sustained major structural damage during Hurricane Ike, which devastated southern Texas in 2008. The Facebook fan page includes information about how the Galveston house and others around the nation help families with seriously ill children undergoing medical treatment.

The fan page also includes photos, articles, videos and links to related Web sites about nutrition, smart grocery shopping strategies and animal agriculture.AFBF promotes the week through activities involving Farm Bureaus at local and state levels across the United States. On the national level, the AFB Women’s Leadership Committee will staff sampling stations at supermarkets and distribute educational information to shoppers.

The committee also will make cash and food donations to Ronald McDonald Houses in Wichita, Kan., this year in addition to going to a local school to teach children about nutrition and who produces the food they eat.Noting the nearly universal need among consumers to stretch their food dollars in today’s economy, Gilbert and Smith said that a number of economic studies have shown that higher retail food prices during the past few years resulted primarily from rising energy costs for processing, packaging and transportation.

The third week of February was selected for Food Check-Out Week as a bridge to National Nutrition Month in March. For more information on Food Check-Out Week go to

Climate Gate

2010: Record snow at the White House--global cooling?
Simpson Concerned about EPA’s Lack of Response to Climate-gate

Washington, D.C. - Congressman Simpson expressed concern that the Obama Administration remains reluctant to slow down implementation of greenhouse gas regulations in light of concerns about the legitimacy of climate change science. On Wednesday, Simpson will have the opportunity to question EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson when she testifies before the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, of which Simpson is the Ranking Republican Member.

“EPA’s public response to the so-called ‘Climate-gate’ issue is unsatisfactory at best,” said Simpson. “Idahoans are frustrated that we are basing major, far-reaching policy changes and significant funding increases on scientific data that has been called into question, but their concerns are being summarily dismissed by the EPA, which simply claims that ‘the science is sound.’”

In December, the EPA announced an endangerment finding regarding greenhouse gases, effectively giving the EPA authority to regulate all greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. Last week, 16 separate court petitions were filed by three states, 13 House lawmakers, and various advocacy groups and think tanks challenging EPA’s finding. Simpson is a cosponsor of H.R. 4572, legislation that would amend the Clean Air Act to clarify that it does not allow for regulation of greenhouse gases on the basis of global climate change.

“President Obama has committed to basing decisions on science, not politics, and to have a ‘more transparent and open government,’” said Simpson. “Now instead of stepping back and asking, ‘Okay, what do the facts really say and how should we respond accordingly?’ the Administration is ignoring legitimate concerns and is continuing to push through new regulations that are extremely damaging to our economy.”

Monday, February 22, 2010

Dairy News from the MPI

Putnam photo
Immigration Enforcements up, Will continue
Washington--The Obama Administration has stepped up enforcement actions on employers suspected of having undocumented employees in the workplace. They'r doing this through I-9 audits.

Employers say that during the audit, suspicious I-9 forms are gone over with a fine tooth comb and then employees are questioned, if there's evidence of fraud the employee is forced to fire the worker immediately. The enforcement is causing problems with several different agricultural operations around the West. A dairy in Colorado and a fruit operation in Washington both had to dismiss over 50% of their respective workforce and had a hard time finding replacement workers.

In preparation for an I-9 audit, MPI members should remember that an I-9 form is required to be on file with copies of the provided documentation for every employee. The form needs to be completed within 3 days of being hired. MPI recommends that the employer keeps a separate file for all employee I-9 forms. Do not keep an employees’ I-9 in the employee file because in the case of an audit or inspection you will be providing the authorities with more information than you are required to provide.

The following link from The Washington DC law firm of Stiff and Lake provides a very thorough resource of how to prepare your employee files, what your rights as an employer are, and what happens during the course of an I-9 audit.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Food Check-Out Week Feb. 21-27th

Food Check-Out Week Spotlights Healthy Eating on a Budget

Boise—As the economic squeeze continues, many Americans remain concerned that the cost of a healthy diet is out of reach. However, according to an Agriculture Department study, the cost of eating healthy hasn’t changed as much as some less-healthy alternatives. Eating healthy food while on a budget does require smart shopping

Farm Bureau’s Food Check-Out Week, Feb. 21-27, 2010, focuses on helping Americans learn how to how to stretch their grocery dollars with healthy, nutritious food. America’s farmers and ranchers are committed to producing safe, healthy and abundant food. And they share a common concern with consumers when it comes to putting nutritious meals on the table while sticking to a tight budget.

The good news: a recent USDA report favorably supports the economics of healthier eating. Recent food price data show that prices for unprepared, readily available fresh fruits and vegetables have remained stable relative to dessert and snack foods, such as chips, ice cream and cola. Therefore, as defined by foods in the study, the price of a “healthier” diet has not changed compared to an “unhealthy” diet.

Farm Bureau’s Food Check-Out Week is aimed at helping American consumers learn how to shop effectively to put nutritious meals on the table with fewer dollars. “Learning to use your grocery dollars wisely ensures that nutrition isn’t neglected,” according to Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley.

“Fruits and vegetables – along with whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, beans, eggs and nuts – are an important part of a healthy diet. Buying fresh produce when it’s in season and costs less, while buying frozen fruits and vegetables when they’re not in season, is a smart way to stretch that dollar,” says Priestley.

Now in its twelfth year, Food Check-Out Week also highlights America’s safe, abundant and affordable food supply, made possible largely by America’s productive farmers and ranchers. According to the most recent (2008) information from the USDA’s Economic Research Service, American families and individuals spend, on average, less than 10 percent of their disposable personal income for food.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dairy News from the MPI

More Immigration Legislation at the Statehouse

Boise--The House State Affairs committee printed a bill Rep. Hart and Rep. Labrador dealing with the employment of illegal aliens. This is the third immigration bill to be introduced this session. The other two bills will be heard on the Senate side.

Bill Summary:
1.Allows for having state, county or city licenses suspended for knowingly employing illegal aliens.
o Professional licenses are excluded
o Persons performing casual domestic labor in or around one’s personal abode are excluded from the definition of an employee

o 1st offense license suspended until the employer signs an affidavit stating that the employer will not hire an unauthorized alien in the future. If the employer files the affidavit with the court within 3 days of the ruling – no suspension will happen.
o 2nd offense in a three year period the license will be suspended for up to ten days.
o 3rd offense in a three year period the license will be suspended for up to one year.
o If no additional violations within the three year period the probation goes away and the employer returns to the start.

3.Makes it a misdemeanor for a person to falsely impersonate another in order to seek employment.

4.Employer Defense:
o Use of e-verify creates an absolute defense (use is still voluntary)
o Good faith use of I-9 creates an affirmative defense

5.Enforced by the Attorney General and local prosecutor.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ada County Farm Bureau News

Photo: Dist. IV P & E committee members Don Sonke, Shane Stevenson, Lou Murgoitio, Kara Jackson, Sid Freeman, and zoo director Steve Burns in front of the proposed exhibit.

By Don Sonke, Ada County Farm Bureau President

Boise--This simple question by a little girl started a chain of events that led to Zoo Boise getting a lion and the Farm Bureau an opportunity to sponsor an agriculture educational exhibit.

A couple years ago Mario Salinas, a FB insurance agent in the Meridian office, took his daughter Misol to Zoo Boise and she thought that since Mario belonged to the Lions Club he should be able to get his fellow Lions to get a Lion exhibit for the zoo. He took the challenge seriously, presented the idea to the local Lions clubs and now, low and behold, we have a Lion exhibit at the zoo.

Recently, Steve Burns, Zoo Boise director had an idea to convert an unused area to create an exhibit with sheep and goats that the public could hand feed from coin op stations. Through his contact with Mario from the Lion adventure, he thought this might be something Farm Bureau might be interested in sponsoring.

He contacted Mario, Mario contacted me and now we have what looks to be effective project for the newly formed District IV Promotion and Education committee. We are looking to be the primary sponsor of the project and will have input on the project with an area to display accurate agricultural materials.

Over 350,000 people from a wide area attend the zoo every year including a large number of children that need accurate information on where and how their food is produced and processed. The committee is now in the process of presenting ideas and working with Mr. Burns to hopefully get the exhibit open sometime in March.

Stay Tuned!

Bonner County News

Bob Smathers photo
Bonner County Farm Bureau Talks Issues
By Bob Smathers
Sandpoint--The Bonner County Farm Bureau met at the Hydra in Sandpoint on Thursday February 11 to discuss county business. Two Bonner County officials also attended the meeting. Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler voiced his concerns to the Bonner County Farm Bureau on House Bill 500 which would require state and Indian tribal cooperative law enforcement. Sheriff Wheeler feels that the legislation is a bad deal for county law enforcement and for non-tribal members living on reservations.

Bonner County weed supervisor Brad Bluemer also attended the meeting and reported on weed issues in the county and the need for funds to print a weed publication to give to landowners in Bonner and surrounding counties. The weed publication will assist landowners in identifying and managing weeds on their properties.

County Farm Bureau business was mostly routine, but packed with constructive discussion under President Jack Obrien’s leadership. The meeting concluded with supper at the Hydra.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Gem County Farm Bureau Legislative Lunch

Ritter photo
Gem County Farm Bureau Board and Lawmakers Break Bread
Boise--Gem County Farm Bureau held their annual Legislative Lunch with Senator Melinda Smyser, Representatives Steven Thayn and Carlos Bilbao at noon at the Idaho Farm Bureau Building at 500 West Washington. Budget and Tax issues dominated the two and a half hour event. Lawmakers briefed the delegation and then listened to a long list of concerns.

Snake River wheat barges prepare a shipment to Asia
AFBF Asks Ag Committees to Back Aggressive Trade Agenda
WASHINGTON– Combined, the Colombia, Panama and Korea free trade agreements represent almost $3 billion in increased U.S. agricultural exports.

Congressional action to approve those agreements would help set an aggressive trade agenda that is important to the U.S. economy and the creation of American jobs, AFBF President Bob Stallman told leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture committees.

In a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of both committees, Stallman said approving the trade agreements would be a great way to answer President Obama’s call in his State of the Union address for doubling U.S. exports over the next five years. Stallman, sent a similar letter to members of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee.

“About 25 percent of the total volume of U.S. farm production is exported, and many U.S. commodities have a much higher dependence on trade,” Stallman told the agriculture committee leaders. “The positive impact of exports will be diminished as long as the United States is not moving forward with an agricultural trade agenda. The drop in U.S. agricultural exports from 2008 to 2009 is estimated to have cost roughly 160,000 American jobs in the production, processing and transportation sectors.”

According to Stallman, major trade competitors of the United States are moving forward with their own trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, yet the U.S. “remains hindered in these markets due to congressional inaction.” He said competing nations also are negotiating other bilateral and regional agreements that are reducing U.S. agriculture’s competitiveness and market share around the world.

“By the end of 2010 there will be more than 600 bilateral and regional trade agreements worldwide with the U.S. engaged in fewer than 25,” Stallman said. “We hope that the president’s call for doubling exports in five years will result in a new emphasis on increasing U.S. market access through trade negotiations and speedy enactment of the pending trade agreements.”

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Benewah County Farm Bureau News

Bob Smathers Photo
Benewah County Farm Bureau Meets
By Bob Smathers

Saint Maries--An atmosphere of cheerfulness is always evident when Benewah County Farm Bureau meets. They met on February 8 to discuss a tour of the College of Natural Resources at the University of Idaho, inviting a speaker from the Friends of the Palouse to speak at their next meeting on the Lochsa Land Exchange, committee reports, county issues, and board activities.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Just in from the USDA

Organic pepper--Jake Putnam photo
Special funds available through USDA for organic producers

Boise, ID, February 10, 2010 – Farmers involved in organic production may qualify for funds through the US Department of Agriculture’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to implement conservation practices related to organic agriculture. The Natural Resources Conservation Service will take applications for a special EQIP “Organic Initiative” until March 12.

“This is the second year for the organic initiative which provides financial assistance to encourage organic producers to adopt conservation practices that improve their operations,” said Clint Evans, Idaho Assistant State Conservationist for programs. “The benefit of the organic initiative is that it allows eligible producers to compete for EQIP benefits separately from regular EQIP funding.”

EQIP provides financial and technical assistance to help implement practices that will conserve resources on private farm lands. Eligible producers include producers who are currently certified organic and producers transitioning to organic production systems.

“Producers can apply for financial assistance to help offset the costs of applying conservation practices to remedy existing environmental problems on their agriculture lands,” Evans said. “Applicants will need to complete a screening worksheet for either Certified Organic operation or transitioning to organic production.”

To be eligible for EQIP support for organic operations, the 2008 Farm Bill requires producers to develop and carry out an Organic System Plan. These plans must be approved and registered by the Idaho Department of Agriculture or a USDA accredited certifier. Applicants with certified organic operations must submit a copy of their current Organic System Plan.

“NRCS has over 290 conservation practices under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program that can help organic producers,” said Marlon Winger, the state agronomist with NRCS. “For example, planting cover crops to increase nitrogen in the soil or improving plant health through crop rotation or evaluating compost in nutrient management plans.”

Winger added, “Producers can also take advantage of technical advice available from NRCS field offices. NRCS provides both financial and technical assistance to motivate producers to change or adapt practices to improve conservation on their operations.”

For more information, potential applicants should contact the USDA Service Center in their local area. Visit the NRCS website at and click the link “Find a Service Center.”

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Latah County Farm Bureau meets--Bob Smathers photo
Not much gray hair in this bunch
by Bob Smathers
Moscow--A relatively young Latah County Farm Bureau Board of directors assembles to discuss business ranging from purchasing a piece of land for a new insurance office and co-hosting a meeting on an Endangered Species Act petition.
The Latah County Farm Bureau and the Whitman County Farm Bureau from Eastern Washington will co-host the meeting featuring U of I Alumn and Washington D.C. attorney Michael Bogert.

Bogert will address the recent petition by environmental groups to list the Giant Palouse Earthworm as an endangered species. The Farm Bureau invited members, farmers, state legislators, and county commissioners to attend.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Just in from Farm and

Yellow Tail wine donation to HSUS incurs farmers’ wrath
by Susan Crowell

An amazing thing happened last week while you were busy milking, feeding, repairing, resting or doing whatever other chores keep farmers busy in bleak midwinter.

An army of “agvocates” — farm advocates — were on their computers creating a ruckus on your behalf. And it was an online vocal maelstrom that spread like wildlife, finding allies, and it triggered a major company to rethink a recent decision.

It all started with a bottle of wine.
The U.S. arm of a Australian wine company that bottles Yellow Tail wine — whose bottle label and company logo features a wallaby — created a catchy “Tails for Tails” campaign in mid-January. Through the campaign, the wine company plans to donate $100,000 to the Humane Society of the United States. Special Yellow Tail displays bearing the HSUS name and logo in stores nationwide are promoting the campaign.

In late January, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance expressed its dismay about the donation in a letter to the wine’s American distributor, alerting the company to the real focus of the HSUS — “reducing the consumption of meat and other animal-based foods” (in their own words). The HSUS is not about pet shelters, unwanted animal rescues or adopting a cat. It is not affiliated with local humane societies.

At some point on Feb. 3, the Alliance “tweeted” about it (Twitter is an online instant message kind of network), and ag folks also picked up on the news of the Yellow Tail donation, sent the news racing through the Twitterverse, and started complaining on the wine company’s Facebook page.

It was kind of like the old commercial for Faberge shampoo: “I told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on and so on …” By late afternoon Feb. 3, agvocates had created a “Yellow Fail” Facebook page, which now has 1,686 fans as of Tuesday morning (Feb. 9). Pictures were posted of the wine being poured into a toilet, and fifth generation rancher in South Dakota, Troy Hadrick, videotaped himself in front of his cattle, expressing his disgust at the donation and poured a bottle of Yellow Tail wine onto the snow. So far, the 53-second video has been watched 3,095 times on YouTube. (Scroll down to watch this video)

Then Yellow Tail USA posted this Tweet: “Lots of conversation here today; we’re listening. Check back soon, we’ll be announcing news shortly on our [tails] for Tails program.”
And by 4:08 p .m. Feb. 4, the wine company offered this update: “We’ve decided to use our $100K gift to aid animal rescue.”

In direct comments to individuals who e-mailed the company, Yellow Tail Wines USA said the recent feedback “was very helpful to us — in fact, it prompted us to specifically choose the areas where we’d most like to celebrate animals. …We hope that you will understand that this allocation of money is a direct result of hearing your concerns.”

Reading between the lines, you get the feeling that Yellow Tail felt it had to honor its stated donation commitment or face the legal wrath of HSUS. “We may not always agree 100 percent of what an organization represents, but rescuing animals displaced from natural disasters is a cause we support.”

So the money still goes to HSUS, only now it’s earmarked for its Animal Rescue Team.
The Yellow Tail/Yellow Fail information has spread across the Internet faster than last Friday’s snow piled up. In the computer world, citizen activism gets kicked up a notch, and this viral blitz goes to show you that the farm world is part of the loop.

Think social media is a fad, or the Internet isn’t worth exploring? Think again, as you consider the ag folks who swept the nation with their messages on your behalf last week.
Now it’s your turn to tell two friends.

About the Author
Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell has been with the paper since 1985, serving as its editor since 1989. Raised on a farm in Holmes County, she is a graduate of Kent State University. You can follow her on Twitter at and follow Farm and Dairy at posts by Susan

Governor C..L. Butch Otter presents Tsukamoto Excellence Award

Governor Otter and Alan Tsukamoto, originally uploaded by IdFarmBureau.

Tsukamoto honored at Ag Summit

Boise--Alan Tsukamoto accepted the Governors Excellence in Agriculture award on behalf of his father Masa at the 15th Annual Larry Branen Idaho Ag Summit.

Masa Tsukamoto passed away in October, the Blackfoot farmer served the agriculture industry for more than 58 years through service organizations and inventions like the E-Z Tarp which covers loads of spuds and beets with a protective tarp for transport. Just about every innovation Masa came up with, son Alan helped built it. This father-son team has left a mark on world agriculture.

Tsukamoto developed The E-Z Tarp system in the mid 1980s to solve problems related to tarping loaded potato trucks in the field. The old tarp systems required truck drivers to climb onto the truck to cover the load. It was dangerous,took valuable time and bruised potatoes. E-Z tarp saved farmers untold millions of dollars in expenses.

After E-Z Tarp was patented, Tsukamoto developed the Cellar Duck, also marketed by EZ Tarp. Masa saw the need to keep the cellar ventilation pipes clean and disease free of and pests where potatoes are stored. The Cellar Duck washes ventilation pipes inside and out with high pressure water while disinfecting them in just 90 seconds with just the push of a button.

Masa Tsukamoto also invented a water saver wheel thats equipped with five spokes and spades that prevents wasting water in fields during irrigation. He also created a shoe for potato planters that reduced soil compaction around the potato seed. These last two inventions were never patented by Masa, but were ‘imitated’ and manufactured by others since their creation.

Tsukamoto served on the advisory board of the Bingham County Extension Potato Specialist, on the Board and Bargaining Committee of the Potato Growers of Idaho, and the Board of the Idaho Potato Expo. He was awarded Lifetime Membership in the Potato Association of America in 1997, was named “Grower of the Year” in 1988 by the Idaho Potato Grower Magazine, and inducted in the Idaho Potato Hall of Fame in 1998.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Idaho Ag Summit

Idaho Governor Butch Otter presents his Excellence in Agriculture Awards Today--Putnam photo
Idaho Ag Summit Underway in Boise

Boise--The 15th annual Idaho Ag Summit is underway at the Double Tree Riverside convention center on Monday and Tuesday. The theme of this year’s summit is Idaho Agriculture: Reality to Revitalization.

Yesterday a panel discussion rocked the house on 'Issues and Survivability of Idaho Agriculture.' The Milk Producers Executive Director Brent Olmstead gave an excellent presentation on labor availability the same presentation that he previewed at the IFBF Legislative Conference last week.

This morning University of Idaho President Dr. Duane Nellis will discuss the 'Renewed Role of Idaho Agriculture.' Dr. Nellis is an unabashed advocate for Ag research at the U of I, and the talk highlights the morning agenda. There will also be a presentation on the Idaho Preferred Program on how to better market Idaho agricultural products.
The conference ends with the Governor’s Awards Luncheon where attendees will watch the Farm Bureau's video of the five 2010 Award winners. Governor Butch Otter will then give out his “Excellence in Agriculture Awards," to this year's honorees.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Just in from Washington

Steve Ritter photo

Re-thinking Animal ID
Washington--Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced this morning that USDA will develop a new, flexible framework for animal disease traceability in the United States, and undertake several other actions to further strengthen its disease prevention and response capabilities.

The framework provides the basic tenets of an improved animal disease traceability capability. USDA’s efforts will:
· Only apply to animals moved in interstate commerce,
· Be administered by the States and Tribal nations to provide more flexibility,
· Encourage the use of lower-cost technology, and
· Be implemented transparently through federal regulations and the full rulemaking process.



BOISE--Idaho’s snowpacks range from fair to poor according to snow survey data collected last week by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The poor snowpacks across the state can be attributed to November, December and January’s minimal precipitation.

“The weather pattern this year is typical during El Niño years with good snow levels in the Southwest US and below normal levels in the Pacific Northwest.” said Ron Abramovich, Water Supply specialist for NRCS.

The best snowpacks are in the Owyhee basin at 95% of average and the lowest in the Coeur d'Alene, St. Joe, and Palouse basins at 50-55% of average. The snow in the Upper Snake River basin in eastern Idaho and western Wyoming is 60% of average, the fifth lowest in fifty years. Based on historic data, when the snowpack is this low on February 1, it does not recover to even near normal levels by April 1.

Water users can expect below normal runoff across all of Idaho. Current streamflow forecasts range from 45-80% of average and did not change much from volumes predicted in January because of the below normal January precipitation.

“The good news is that the reservoir storage is above average across most of the state and that will help buffer impacts of the below normal streamflows,” Abramovich added. “Water managers will monitor snow levels, inflows and spring weather closely when the melt season starts to ensure reservoirs fill as much as possible.”

Also good news, there is enough snow to have fun in! The snow depths are adequate for all types of winter recreation in the mountains. However, a hazardous weak layer in the snowpack persists and has resulted in four avalanche fatalities in Idaho so far this winter. More snow is needed to deeply bury this layer so it is less susceptible to sliding. Furthermore, more snow will provide much needed moisture for Idaho's numerous water users.

Here is a summary of the Water Supply Outlook by region:

• Panhandle Region – Snowpacks are below average across the region ranging from 50-85% of normal. This is a perfect model of the El Niño weather pattern – the southwest US has abundant winter moisture while the northwest tends to be dry. The low snowpack leads to less than optimal streamflow forecasts with the lowest flows predicted for the Spokane River at 45–50% of average and the highest for Clark Fork and Pend Oreille Lake Inflow at 80% of average.

• Clearwater River Basin – The Clearwater Mountains received snow recently but need a phenomenal amount of snow to bring the snow water content near average by April. Projected streamflow volumes will be low ranging from 55-65% of average. Dworshak Reservoir is storing near average amounts and will help supplement the lower summer streamflow levels.

• Salmon River Basin – The snowpack is only 69% of normal. The Salmon River and its tributaries are forecast to flow between 65-70% of their normal summertime volumes. Recreationists will still have a good season, but the duration of the high water season will be shorter with less snow to feed the river.

• Weiser, Payette, Boise River Basins - This region received almost near average precipitation in January which helped the snowpack in all three basins. The Weiser and Boise basins currently stand at about 83% of average while the Payette basin is 73% of average. Near normal precipitation the next two months will help to maintain a snowpack of 80% of average on April 1 which should be enough to meet surface irrigation water supplies in the valley. Good reservoir storage in the Boise and Payette reservoir systems will help irrigators and recreationists make it through the season despite the lower than normal snow.

• Wood and Lost River Basins - The best snowpack is in Camas Creek at 92% of average and the lowest snow is in the Big Lost and Little Lost drainages, both at 66%. The spring and summer streamflow volumes are predicted to range between 50-65%. The good news is that the current reservoir storage is 92% of average for Magic and 130% for Mackay reservoirs. However, the mountains need lots more snow or good spring rains like last year to offset any water shortages.

• Upper Snake River Basin - The entire Upper Snake River is in desperate need of more snow. Unfortunately, historical data shows there is little hope for snowpack recovery by April 1. The Upper Snake basin is experiencing one of its leanest winters since records began. An index combining 28 snow measuring sites in the basin above American Falls shows that this is the 6th lowest snowpack in 50 years. Reservoir storage is above average and will supplement low streamflow volumes. With current snow levels very similar to 2001 levels, a year when streamflows were only 47% of average, irrigators may need to use conservation practices implemented during other recent water short years.

• Southside Snake River Basin – Snowpacks improved as Southside basins picked up near average precipitation in January due to the El Nino weather pattern. Current streamflow forecasts call for 68% of average for Oakley Reservoir inflow, 50% for Salmon Falls Creek, and 59% in the Bruneau River. Irrigation water supplies should be marginally adequate in the Oakley and Owyhee basins while shortages may occur on the Salmon Falls tract.

• Bear River Basin – The recent snow in the Bear River high country at the end of January was not enough to boost the snowpack which is at 61% of average. Bear Lake is 38% full but despite the low levels of stored water, the size of this reservoir should provide adequate irrigation supplies even with limited inflows. The lack of inflows means the lake will be even lower by summer's end.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Just in from New York

National Jobless Rate Drops to 9.7%

New York--In a report released this morning, the government said that American employers lost more than 20,000 non-farm jobs in January and that job losses in 2009 were worse than previously reported.

Though the government's survey of households found a drop in the unemployment rate, to 9.7 percent in January from 10 percent in December, the new figures show that the economy is slowly recovering.

Just in from Washington

Photo courtesy of Colin Yaberra

Simpson Moves to Block Climate Change Regs

Washington--Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson joined a bipartisan group of Representatives in cosponsoring legislation to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the authority of the Clean Air Act. H.R. 4572 was introduced by Congressman Ike Skelton (D-MO), Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN).

In December EPA released a finding that greenhouse gas is an endangerment to human health under the Clean Air Act, which gives EPA broad authority to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in spite of the fact that Congress has yet to pass climate change legislation.

“The EPA’s recent decision was a shot across Congress’s bow, telling us that if we don’t act quickly to pass sweeping, controversial climate change legislation, the EPA is going to do it for us,” Simpson said. “Unelected bureaucrats at EPA should not be allowed to circumvent the legislative process or override the will of the American people. It’s clear that we need to take action through H.R. 4572 to prevent them from doing so.”

H.R. 4572 would amend the Clean Air Act to clarify that it does not allow for regulation of greenhouse gases on the basis of global climate change. It would also prevent EPA from following through with additional regulations proposed last year to use calculations of indirect land use changes associated with the production of biofuels in determining renewable fuels policy. Such regulations would disqualify ethanol and other biofuels from the renewable fuels standard, severely limiting our ability to address the energy crisis facing this nation.

“Over the past year, I’ve heard from farmers, ranchers, and employers all over the state who are deeply concerned about current efforts to push through sweeping environmental policy reforms without regard for the impact they are having on the economy and job creation,” said Simpson. “We must work to develop real solutions to our nation’s energy and environmental challenges, and I believe that H.R. 4572 is a good first step.”

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Legislative Leadership Conference 2010

Jake Putnam photo

Farm Bureau Joins State in ESA Listing Fight

Boise--Idaho Farm Bureau president Frank Priestley presented Idaho Governor C.L. Butch Otter a $5-thousand dollar check to help the state pay legal fees in slickspot peppergrass listing lawsuit with the federal government.

Priestley presented Governor Otter the check during its annual Legislative Leadership Conference at the Boise Red Lion Downtowner this morning.

“We support the State’s efforts in challenging this lawsuit. In these dire economic times our farm and ranch families need to be allowed to make a living,” said Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologists wrote in the ESA listing document that the habitat continues to get worse across Idaho. Biologists added in the report that wildfire and cheat grass continue to threaten the species across the Snake River plain. Governor Otter told Farm Bureau members that the listing could impact Idaho ranchers for generations.

"On November 16th I filed a suit,” Otter said, “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.”

Otter says the Murphy Complex fire did more to kill off slickspot peppergrass than a hundred years of grazing adding that fire helped trigger the endangered species listing.

The plant ranges from 4 to 12 inches in height, and has many tiny, white flowers that resemble the garden flower sweet alyssum. Slickspot peppergrass typically grows in small areas within larger sagebrush habitat. The plant is found only in southwest Idaho and includes Ada, Canyon, Elmore, Gem, Owyhee and Payette Counties. In order to conserve the plant and to preclude the need for a federal listing, a number of private, state and federal entities developed a Candidate Conservation Agreement for the plant.

Legislative Leadership Conference Tour

Idaho Farm Bureau members tour the remodeled Statehouse Tuesday afternoon in Boise. The Legislative Leadership Conference in Boise continues this morning with a keynote address from Governor Butch Otter.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Idaho Farm Bureau Legislative Leadership Conference

Bell: Economy Not Pretty

Boise--Idaho Farm Bureau members attending the Leadership Conference had the chance to meet with lawmakers like JFAC co-chair Rep. Maxine Bell who told the farmers that the economy is stinging right now and tough decsions have to be made in the coming weeks at the Statehouse.

Women's Leadership Committee News

Food Check Out Day at the Ronald McDonald House

Boise--The Idaho Farm Bureau’s Women’s Leadership Committee celebrated the Ronald McDonald House's 22nd birthday this afternoon bearing food, gifts and even a cake to the families of critically ill children. The Farm Bureau Women unloaded two carloads of food that will help feed the families of 19 families staying at the facility.

The mission of the Ronald McDonald House is to provide a “home away from home” for families of sick and injured children receiving medical treatment at Saint Lukes Medical Center in Boise. Executive Director Mindy Plumlee says 539 families spent time at the facility in 2009, and they're booked just about every week.

The Ronald McDonald House, located on Main St. near St. Luke's Hospital, started in 1988 and provides affordable alternative housing for out-of-town families with children who require medical treatment.

Built in the early 1900s and purchased by the late J.R. Simplot for the Ronald McDonald Foundation. Families are charged just $10 a night; the balance is paid with public and private donations to the Ronald McDonald house, and any family who is unable to pay the $10 is not turned away.

“We're not just helping the struggling families but we're on a mission, we want the people of Idaho to know that we have the best, most plentiful and cheapest food supply in the world, we're sharing that good fortune with those who need it, and they need it now.” said Chairwoman Carol Guthrie.

Carol Guthrie also presented the House with a check. The money was collected from County Farm Bureaus across the state. Carol Hagen of Boise’s Ronald McDonald House is thankful for the help. “We’ll spend it all on food and things needed to sustain the families during their stay here.

Payette County Farm Bureau News

Payette County held their annual banquet last night to a packed house to the delight of PFB President Jerry Anderson.

Payette County Farm Bureau News

Packed House in Payette
Paytette--Payette County Farm Bureau President Jerry Anderson beams over a packed house at the Payette County Farm Bureau annual meeting in Payette on Monday night. Lt. Governor Brad Little was the keynote speaker.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Happy Birthday Ronald McDonald House

Womens Leadership Committee Makes Annual Donation to Ronald McDonald House

Boise--Mindy Plumlee, Executive Director of Boise's Ronald McDonald House is presented with a birthday cake from Idaho Farm Bureau's Woman's Leadership Committee Chairman Carol Guthrie. The Ronald McDonald House opened its doors two decades ago in Boise. The Idaho Farm Bureau donated groceries, money and cooked dinner at the house as a part of their annual Food Checkout Day.

Idaho Farm Bureau Commodity Conference

Idaho Farm Bureau Commodity Conference Opens

Boise--Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley addresses the opening of the annual Commodity Conference at the Doubletree Downtowner in Boise. Farm Bureau members learned how to handle estates in the first workshop.

Idaho FB Vice President Mark Trupp

Trupp Adddresses the Next Generation

Boise--Idaho Farm Bureau Vice President Mark Trupp addresses Farm Bureau District Speech winners at the State Finals in Boise. Trupp told the group that communication is a vital tool in agriculture.

Just in from Washington

Help to Idaho farmers and the nation’s children
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representatives Walt Minnick and Mike Simpson praised news Friday that the USDA will help Idaho potato farmers weather a year of good crops and bad prices, while feeding children at the same time.

After hearing from Idaho’s Congressmen, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak directed the USDA to purchase $29.1 million worth of blueberry, pear, potato, peach and mixed fruit products through the Section 32 program. As well as helping farmers, the program offers healthy foods to nutrition programs: the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and The Emergency Food Assistance Program, programs that provide food to children in need.

Part of the purchase, announced Friday by Vilsak, includes $9 million worth of potatoes. Minnick and Simpson helped Idaho’s potato farmers make their case for the purchase.
“I am always pleased to see a federal program working the way it was intended,” Minnick said. “This purchase helps Idaho by giving rural economies a boost in during tough economic times, while helping to feed the nation’s poor. I want to thank Secretary Vilsak for his sensible decision to put federal dollars to use in an effective manner.”

“I am pleased the USDA is stepping forward to assist Idaho’s potato growers and thank Secretary Vilsak for responding to our request,” Simpson said. “The Section 32 program is intended to assist producers in situations exactly like this by utilizing funds set aside from customs receipts. The program not only assists producers, it provides nutritious foods to those in need and helps ensure we never become as reliant on foreign countries for our food as we have for our energy.”

Minnick and Simpson spearheaded a letter from the Idaho Delegation seeking the purchase. Minnick’s office also met with Agriculture officials in Washington, D.C., to press the issue.Idaho potato farmers needed the help. With last year’s near-perfect growing conditions, potato farmers enjoyed excellent yields. The stocks of saleable potatoes rose by 13.5 percent, even as exports rose by 4.5 percent. As a result, prices dropped and have stayed low

FB Women's Speech Contest

Justin Rast Wins Annual Speech Contest
Boise--Justin Rast of Filer High School won the State Farm Bureau Women's Leadership Committee Speech contest Monday morning in Boise.

Rast effectively focused on telling the Idaho Ag story from the perspective of commodity production."I used the the theme using 'the Voice of Idaho agriculture', I visualized listening to the voices of agriculture from the barnyard to the fields, giving a voice to animals and commodities and letting them tell the story," said Rast. He thought that giving a speech and spewing out statitistics was boring, thats when he came up with the idea of letting the commodities tell their own story in the form of his speech, the result was a creative and facinating fresh take on Idaho Agriculture.

Rast ended his speech with this gem: "Success (in agriculture) is a journey not a destination. The doing is usually more important than the outcome."

Farmer Athletes

Steve Ritter photo
Idaho Farmers Take Getting in Shape to a Higher Level
by Jake Putnam

Emmett--A little out of shape and approaching his 50th birthday, Vaughn Jensen decided it was time to change his lifestyle. So the Emmett farmer and his wife Lisa decided to tackle one of the most grueling sports in existence and it’s given them a new perspective on life.

Throughout her life Lisa has been an athlete interested in several sports. She was a good high athlete and was recruited to play basketball at Snow College in Utah.

But while growing up on a dairy Vaughn missed out on high school athletics. A little over a year ago Vaughn started noticing changes in his life and it bothered him. He was tired all the time and fretted over his fitness and a growing waistline.

"I was feeling my age and weight and decided that I wanted to get back in shape," he said. There is nothing unusual in that hundreds of thousands of people make New Year resolutions, but the farmer and Gem County Farm Bureau Board member chose the hardest road to fitness he could find.

The Ironman is the Holy Grail of fitness competition and is definitely not for weekend athletes. The race is an almost impossible test of strength and a grueling and a test of willpower.
Ironman Triathlons are a series of long-distance races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation. Events consist of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike race and then a 26-mile marathon run.

Triathletes run the Ironman without a break and all the events have strict time limits. Competitors must complete the events in just 17 hours or face disqualification. The races typically start at 7 a.m. in open water and they need to finish the 2.4 mile swim within 2 hours 20 minutes.

The racers spend the bulk of the morning and afternoon on the massive bike ride that has to be finished by 5:30 p.m. Then runners must finish the marathon by midnight.
Vaughn's goal seemed impossible at first, but with Lisa’s support he was able to put in the hours of training it takes to become an endurance athlete. The Jensen’s train together in all three events.

"He could do his farm work," said Lisa. "But he was getting out of shape and getting heavy and you just don't feel good and you don’t feel good about yourself when you get fat."

At first, the Jensen’s started jogging together and later bought road bikes and a membership to the Ontario, Oregon YMCA for the early morning swims. They also researched and studied their sport. More importantly they decided to make the journey together.

"We’re in an age of technology," said Vaughn. "And we don't get the exercise, especially the regular exercise we used to get in the farm community and we need it."

Together the Jensen’s got to work with early morning, noon and early evening workouts. They learned how to eat and compete all over again. They set goals and the first major one was to finish a marathon. Next came Vaughn's ultimate dream of finishing an Ironman event.

"He grew up working on his family dairy and wasn't allowed to play sports in high school," said Lisa. “Sports have always been a part of my life, I played college basketball.”

Later, the Jensen’s got a wake-up call. "When we first started swimming we couldn't even swim the length of the pool,” said Lisa. “We didn't know how to swim with our faces in the water." But together they persevered and kept practicing until the swimming became second nature.They learned technique and endurance in the water, efficiency and pace on the bikes, and how to overcome the pain during long runs.

"The knees start to ache about 13 miles into a run,” said Vaughn. “We run on our farm roads and I really like that. The bicycle is easier on the joints and Lisa does really well on the bike. I like the long bike rides because you have to focus on pacing and endurance. It also gives you enough time to take a break from the farm work."

Vaughn says triathlon training has improved his farming operation despite the fact that he has less time. "I do think the workouts help because when I’m running, cycling or swimming I think about things that are going on in my farming operation and I think it has given me renewed energy and fresh outlook on things. It’s helped me with goal setting.”

Listening to Vaughn talk, the word marathon pops up constantly in the form of metaphors. Building a farm is a marathon, creating and growing a family life is a marathon. The Jensen’s took the metaphor to a literal interpretation this past summer.

This past June marked Vaughn’s 50th birthday and he competed in the Boise 70.3 Ironman. After that he ran the Hermiston Marathon in October. He and Lisa have competed in the Emmett Olympic Distance Triathlon twice. Swimming presented the biggest obstacle for Vaughn during the Boise Ironman event.

"The water temps weren’t much of a problem,” he said. “I had a wet suit at Lucky Peak that protected me against the cold, along with head protection. It was windy, there were waves and the water was rough. I didn’t realize how rough until I got out of the water. The wave action affected my equilibrium and I staggered a bit.”

But after he got out of the reservoir it was smooth sailing, making an excellent time on the bike and did reasonably well in the marathon.

"I finished in about the 45th percentile for my age group," recalled Vaughn. "So I was in the middle. I’m looking forward to see what I can do to improve that time." Lisa also looks forward to the next test.

"When we did our first marathon our goal was to finish," said Lisa, fighting back tears of pride. "And we did. Whether you cross that finish line in first place or dead last, you still feel like a winner because you did it.” The Jensen's have proved that they’re clearly winners.

Garden News

Heather Glass gardens--Putnam photo
Organic Farming ‘Grower’s Own Conference’ to be Held

Twin Falls, ID – Certified organic farmers and others using organic methods are invited to attend a conference in Twin Falls, Idaho on February 12 - 13. The Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides is hosting the Grower’s Own Conference.

This conference features a farmer-to-farmer exchange, with participants sharing their knowledge and experience with various organic farming methods and issues.

Prior to the conference, farmers will provide input on the topics to be discussed and then come prepared to share their experiences. Farmer-to-farmer exchanges have been used for 10 years by farmers in Oregon and one is now being offered in Idaho.

Possible topics to be covered include cover cropping, cultivation equipment, cropping rotations, weed management, greenhouse production, food safety, planters, integrated pest management, value-added products, and others.

Organic farmer Beth Rasgorshek of Canyon Bounty Farm in Nampa, Idaho is helping to organize the conference and encourages farmers to participate. “We all have valuable experiences to help contribute to the success of other farmers. It could be something very simple, but it could be an epiphany to another farmer," she says. “It’s not just for the success of our individual farms, but for all organic agriculture in Idaho.”

The conference will kick off with dinner, virtual farm tours, and a presentation on crop insurance from USDA Risk Management Agency on the evening of Friday, February 12 from 5 – 9 pm at the Canyon Crest Event Center in Twin Falls. The farmer-to-farmer exchange will run from 8 am – 5 pm on Saturday, February 13.


Boise– Governor Butch  Otter and House Speaker Scott Bedke announced an agreement today between water users and water managers on prioriti...