Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Just in from Boise

Idaho's First Wolf Hunt Comes to an End

Boise--Idaho's first wolf hunting session ends today and with 185 wolves harvested so far, throughout the state. Idaho Fish and Game reports seven of twelve wolf zones already closed.

"The season has succeeded in halting the growth of Idaho's wolf population," said Fish and Game Director Cal Groen. "It showed that Fish and Game is capable of monitoring and managing a well-regulated wolf hunt."

The hunt also showed that fears of wholesale slaughter of wolves were unfounded, Groen told reporters at a news conference this morning at Fish and Game headquarters in Boise. He said that hunters complied with the rules, along with all check-in and call-in requirements.

The Idaho Fish and Game set wolf limits for each of 12 management zones. The season closes in each zone when the limit for that zone is reached, or when statewide limit of 22- wolves is reached.

Idaho Fish and Game set wolf harvest limits for each of the 12 management zones. The season closes in each zone when the limit for that zone is reached, or when the statewide limit of 220 wolves is reached.

Idaho Fish and Game sold 31,393 wolf tages this season--30, 612 resident and 684 nonresident tags. Harvested wolves ranged from 54 to 127 pounds, males averaged 100 pounds and females 79 pounds. Of the wolves taken, 58 percent were male, and 15 percent were juveniles less than one year old.

Most wolves were shot in October and fewest in January. Two wolves were taken in the Southern Idaho zone, and 49 were taken in the Sawtooth zone. At the end of 2009, Idaho had a minimum of 843 wolves in 94 packs, and 49 packs are considered breeding pairs. The average pack size was 7.8 wolves. A total of 142 wolves are rasio-collared.

Just in from Washington

Putnam photo
AFBF Calls on Congress to Nullify EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Scheme
WASHINGTON, D.C. March 31, 2010—Now is the time for Congress to nullify greenhouse gas permit requirements that were announced this week by the Environmental Protection Agency. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, efforts under way in Congress and legal challenges undertaken by state governments are offering corrective paths to undo a very real disaster headed toward farm and ranch families.

“We believe the EPA’s greenhouse gas requirements will lead to costly and ineffective regulations on America’s farmers and ranchers,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “We vehemently oppose regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act because we believe it will require livestock producers and other agricultural operations to obtain costly and time-consuming permits as conditions to continue farming.”

Stallman said Farm Bureau strongly backs a Senate resolution to disapprove of EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), and a companion measure in the House introduced by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.). Stallman also welcomed legal challenges from many state government officials who have stepped forward to express their valid objection.

According to Stallman, the Agriculture Department warned in 2008 that if greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural operations are regulated under the Clean Air Act, numerous farms that currently are not subject to a costly and time-consuming permitting process would, for the first time, become covered entities.

“We are concerned that the EPA decision announced Monday leads us down a direct path that fulfills USDA’s prediction. If Congress does not follow the lead of Sens. Murkowski, Lincoln and Reps. Peterson and Skelton, farmers will fall within the scope of regulation and struggle to cope with ineffective greenhouse gas regulations that are not economically sustainable. We urge Congress to take action before the regulations take effect next January.”

Southern Idaho battered by spring storms

March 30 stormfront, originally uploaded by Jake Putnam.

Boise--Southern Idaho has been battered by a series of storms that's left up to a foot of new snow in the high country. The NRCS will release the March snowpack numbers later today and should show improvement over below average numbers.

The Bogus Basin above Boise recieved more than 9 inches of snow last night, Sun Valley and the Upper Snake River Basin more than a foot of fresh snow.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

2010 Legislature

Putnam photo

2010 Legislative Session Ends

Boise--The Idaho Legislature wrapped up its 2010 cash-strapped session just after 9-pm Monday night. The session lasted 78 days, compared to last year’s 117-day marathon.

On the final day House and Senate Republicans passed a resolution demanding that Congress amend the U.S. Constitution to ban health care mandates. They also passed a bill that federal control over Idaho-made firearms that stay within state borders.

The session ended with accolades for fellow lawmakers the cut across contentious party lines. The Senate honored retiring Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, and outgoing Senate Minority Leader Kate Kelly, D-Boise, who is not seeking re-election.

Lawmakers also acknowledgement that the state’s economic troubles — its general fund budget for fiscal year 2011 was slashed by $122 million — the meant many difficult decisions and doubled the workload of legislators.

Dean Cameron, R-Rupert and co-chair of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, was presented the Idaho flag that flew above the Senate dome this session. Cameron stressed that he couldn’t have done it without the hard work of his JFAC co-chair, Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, “She’s a fine lady,” Cameron said of Bell. “She’s a classy lady.”

The 78-day session marked the shortest since 2002, that session lasted just 68 days. The night time adjournment kept lawmakers at their desks until well after dark but the House took a dinner break with a make-shift pizza party.

Just after 8 p.m., Rep. Maxine Bell gave a speech on the House floor about a bill that allows Otter to tap into reserves to balance the current fiscal year budget if necessary. The bill passed and the short, contentious, busy legislative session came to an end to handshakes and hugs.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Rural Economic Development from the U of I

Lava Hot Springs
UI Horizons builds economic prosperity in rural Idaho towns

Boise--Residents of Albion, Dietrich, Eden, Hazelton, Richfield, and Shoshone are learning basic concepts of personal finance through Horizons classes taught by University of Idaho Extension Educator Lyle Hansen.

“Personal financial training is an important component of Horizons because of what our communities are facing,” says Hansen.“We have a lot of people in poverty,” agrees UI Extension’s Christi Falen, like Hansen, a Horizons coach.

“We’re building our communities’ capacities on every front that we can.”49 Idaho towns benefit. Horizons, a program that’s been building leadership and prosperity in rural Idaho since 2003, is a partnership between UI Extension and the Northwest Area Foundation.

Through Horizons grants, UI Extension has worked with 49 towns, all with populations under 5,000 and poverty rates of at least 10%. Currently participating in Horizons, in addition to the six towns benefiting from Hansen’s classes, are American Falls, Arco/Moore, Ashton, Challis, Georgetown, Heyburn, Lava Hot Springs, Menan, Ririe, Roberts, and Salmon.

Barbara Petty, UI Extension’s Horizons program director, estimates that 6,000 Idahoans have participated in the current phase three of the program through study circles, leadership training, community visioning rallies, and action teams.

“This has mobilized people to get things done in their communities that they’ve wanted to do for a long time,” she says.Computer classes at Roberts’ public library have residents of this eastern Idaho community doubling and tripling up on computers to learn about word processing, spreadsheets, Internet searches, and e-mail, says Horizons coach DaNell Hennis.

“More people are showing up each week.” In Challis, entrepreneurial high school students are offering movies twice monthly to area residents and donating proceeds to good causes in town and even in Haiti. Challis’ farmers market, a Horizons project that’s formed a co-op, mushroomed from 5 vendors to 65 in 2009—all within an 80-mile radius and offering everything from onions to flowers to crafts.

“A lot of them were making or growing these things before but never had an avenue for selling them,” says Turek. Last year’s sales: more than $15,000.UI’s future work with Idaho Horizons communities will focus on youth college readiness and workforce preparation.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Garden News

Heather Glass harvests her garden last fall--Putnam photo
Community gardening conference set April 17

GARDEN CITY--Interest in community gardens is increasing as more Idahoans struggle with unemployment, economic hardship and food insecurity. Community gardening is an educational process that helps people help themselves and improves nutrition, diet and health.

Studies show urban community gardeners may be 3.5 times more likely to consume the recommended 5 daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Youth and adults involved in community gardening projects also enjoy increased social cohesion, social support and social connections. The presence of community gardens can even increase home values in struggling neighborhoods by 9.4%.

However, good intentions and green thumbs alone do not ensure success. Education, communication and organizational skills are needed for both organizers and gardeners to create and sustain a project.

That’s why University of Idaho Extension and partners are proud to present Growing Together: A Treasure Valley Community Gardening Conference to connect new and established community gardeners, offer horticultural education and give participants increased opportunity to network, communicate, collaborate and share resources.

Saturday, April 17; 8:30 am – 4:30 pm
Vineyard Fellowship Garden: 4950 N Bradley (48th St.) in Garden City
Suggested donation $10 or the equivalent in nonperishable food or seeed.Scholarships are available, please ask. To register, contact Ariel Agenbroad, Horticulture Extension Educator at the University of Idaho Canyon County Extension office (501 Main St., Caldwell) at 208-459-6003 Monday- Friday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm or by emailing

Find out more about the local Extension horticulture programs at and visit our Canyon County Extension Horticulture web page at

Friday, March 26, 2010

President's Editorial

Range Specialist Wally Butler confronts Jonathan Marvel
False Statements Lead to Revocation of Grazing Permit

By Frank Priestley, Idaho Farm Bureau President
Jon Marvel was recently caught lying to obtain federal grazing permits and got a dose of his own medicine. The shady undertakings of the Hailey architect and his Western Watersheds Project came to the forefront in mid-March when Marvel and crony Gordon Younger of Seattle admitted they lied to obtain grazing permits from the Bureau of Land Management.

Marvel and Younger were fined $250 each, which they paid without protest. Marvel’s attorney, Laird Lucas of Boise, described the incident as no big deal – about like a traffic ticket.

We think it’s more than that – much more. We believe it should be enough to unravel Marvel and his organization and keep them from ever obtaining another grazing permit. What this incident proves is that being honest with state and federal agencies doesn’t fit Marvel’s agenda. He will do or say whatever it takes to carry out his ruthless agenda of manipulating the courts to keep ranchers from using public land for grazing.

To further explain the infraction, in order to obtain a grazing permit, the holder must have a plan to utilize the resource. In other words, if you are going to bid on a grazing permit, or acquire a permit by purchasing an existing ranch, eventually you’ll need some livestock to eat the grass on the public-owned allotments. In this case there was a three-year grace period but Marvel was out of compliance by at least five years. In spite of requirements to put grazing livestock on the land, Marvel and his ilk have been able to obtain several state and federal grazing permits over the last 17 years.

Marvel and Younger claimed they were in the process of acquiring livestock for their Greenfire Preserve on the East Fork of the Salmon River near Clayton, but never followed through which is what specifically got them into trouble with the BLM. A BLM official in Challis said there are livestock auctions held every week and they had ample time to purchase the livestock needed to fulfill their commitment. When BLM began steps to revoke their permit, they claimed they were being discriminated against.

Two-faced and phony seem like other fitting words in describing Marvel’s claim of discrimination. For years he has hired lawyers to sue ranchers, state and federal agencies and others for alleged grazing permit violations. Yet, when he is found in violation of his own permit, it’s discrimination. He expects ranchers to live by an entirely different set of standards than he is willing to live by himself.

We believe Marvel is a hypocrite who has built his organization on a foundation of misrepresentations. Marvel and WWP hold grazing permits on several thousand acres of state and federal lands. The Idaho Land Board and the U.S. Forest Service should follow BLM’s lead and take a careful review to make sure Marvel is in compliance with the law. If not the permits should be revoked and put to use by ranchers who will properly manage the land, which in turn will generate commerce in surrounding communities.

New Production Tools

Doug Barrie harvests grain near Ucon--Putnam photo
Online Calculator Helps Farmers Track Resources and Inputs

Denver--Farmers will now be able to analyze their natural resource use and key crop production inputs using a new online tool introduced by Field to Market, The Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture.

The Fieldprint Calculator is a free, confidential online tool developed with input from a diverse group of grower organizations, agribusinesses, food companies, economists and conservation groups, to help farmers evaluate natural resource use on their operation compared to industry averages.

These measures could help improve production efficiencies and profit potential. The calculator will be available at beginning March 15 for grower testing and feedback.

The new data-driven calculator illustrates the connection between resource and economic sustainability, so growers can more easily see how their choices impact natural resources, production levels and ultimately the efficiency of their operation.Farmers strive to be good stewards of the land.

Sustainable agriculture must make sense economically as well as environmentally or it’s not sustainable. This calculator will help farmers understand how being sustainable on the farm today, while providing insight for future improvements that can benefit the environment and their bottom line.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

YF & R News

The Harshbargers of Fremont County--Putnam photo
Young Farmers, Ranchers Face Concerns but Express Optimism
WASHINGTON--Profitability, increasing government regulations and the impact of activist groups are the top concerns of America’s leading young farmers and ranchers, according to a survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Despite the challenges, 80 percent of those responding to AFBF’s 18th annual survey of young farmers and ranchers say they are more optimistic than they were five years ago, while 82 percent say they are better off than they were five years ago.

“Last year was a tough year economically for many sectors of agriculture,” said AFBF YF&R Committee Chair Will Gilmer, a dairy farmer from Lamar County, Ala. “But despite the challenges, the survey shows young farmers and ranchers are optimistic and hopeful. We expect a bright future ahead.”

The informal survey shows young farmers and ranchers have a high level of apprehension about government climate change regulations, with 79 percent of those surveyed expressing high or very high concern.

A huge majority of those surveyed expressed concern about the impact of activist groups on their farm and ranch operations. A total of 85 percent were concerned or very concerned about activist groups. Only 7 percent expressed little or no concern.

“Activist groups are becoming more and more vocal, so that is something we always have to keep our eyes on,” Gilmer said. “There is also a great deal of concern about all the ways the government wants to regulate us, whether it’s cap-and-trade or different Environmental Protection Agency rules.”

Respondents were asked to rank their top three challenges, and 24 percent ranked overall profitability as the top, followed by government regulations at 23 percent. Two other concerns tied for third on that list, with competition from more established farms and ranches, and willingness of parents to share management responsibilities each receiving 9 percent.

And when it comes to what steps the federal government can take to help farmers and ranchers, 23 percent ranked cut federal spending as No. 1. Boosting U.S. agricultural exports ranked second, selected by 14 percent of respondents. Providing greater help to beginning farmers was third at 11 percent.

A sizable majority, 83 percent, said they believe farm income should come totally from the marketplace, while only 17 percent said farm income should be supplemented by government farm program payments.

Young farmers and ranchers are also committed environmental stewards, with 68 percent saying that balancing environmental and economic concerns is important for their operations. The survey says 58 percent used conservation tillage on their farms. The majority of those surveyed, 57 percent, plan to plant biotech crops this year, while 43 percent said they do not plan to do so.

The survey also shows the Internet is an important tool for young farmers and ranchers. Nearly 99 percent said they have access to and use the Internet, with the vast majority, 72 percent, saying they have access to a high-speed Internet connection. Only 20 percent rely on slower dial-up connections and 8 percent turn to more costly satellite connections.

The social media site Facebook is very popular with young farmers and ranchers. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed have a Facebook page. Ten percent of the young farmers say they use the micro-blogging Web site Twitter, while about 12 percent say they post YouTube videos.
Communicating with consumers is also important, with 77 saying they consider reaching out to the public about agriculture and their operations an important part of their jobs as farmers and ranchers.

“We’re recognizing that we need to get out there and talk with our consumers, and we are doing so,” Gilmer said. “Social media is just one more avenue for us to reach those who buy and consume what we produce.”

In addition, the Internet is an important tool for the group to access both general and farm news, with 84 percent saying they use the Web for that function. Seventy-two percent said they turn to the Internet to collect buying information for their operations.

The survey also reveals the group’s strong commitment to agriculture, with 96 percent saying they consider themselves life-long farmers or ranchers. They also express hope for the next generation, with 98 percent saying they would like to see their children follow in their footsteps; 85 percent believe their children will be able to follow in their footsteps.

“Young farmers and ranchers share the same traditional hopes and values that have always guided agriculture,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “This survey shows that the future of American agriculture is in caring and capable hands.”

The informal survey of young farmers and ranchers, ages 18-35, was conducted during AFBF’s 2010 YF&R Leadership Conference in Tulsa, Okla., last month. There were 373 respondents to the informal survey.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Just in from Washington

Photo courtesty of Rich Iwasaki
Introduces new version of Endangered Species Recovery Act

Washington, D.C. – Recovery efforts for threatened and endangered species would be improved by voluntary contributions from private landowners under legislation introduced by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo. Crapo, the Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife, won bipartisan support and cosponsors for his Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2010.

The updated ESA-related bill follows Crapo’s original 2007 legislation that won broad, bipartisan support. Language from that bill calling for tax deductions for private property owners who assist in species recovery was included in the 2008 Farm Bill. Crapo’s new effort seeks to create tax credits for landowners as well.

“More than eighty percent of threatened and endangered species reside on private lands, including agricultural land,” Crapo said. “Creating new incentives for land owners benefits these species’ recovery efforts. This approach has broad, bipartisan support and our past legislative efforts received the endorsement of landowner and conservation groups alike.”

Crapo’s bill, S. 3146, would create habitat protection easement credits and habitat restoration credits fairly compensating landowners who provide conservation easements and assist with species recovery. “These people are in the best position to help the vast percentages of threatened and endangered species that live on private lands,” Crapo said. The Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2010 is co-sponsored by Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas) and Jon Tester (D-Montana).

“The Endangered Species Act has played a critical role in protecting threatened and endangered species, their habitats, and promoting species recovery,” Crapo concluded. “Now it is time for private property owners to be full partners in these recovery efforts.” The legislation has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee, on which Crapo serves, for further consideration.

Spring on the Payette River

Soulen lambing sheds--Steve Ritter photo

Lambing season in Full Swing on the Payette

Emmett--Sheep operators are busy shearing winter wool, while herders work around the clock at the lambing sheds on the Payette River west of Emmett.

February to May is traditional lambing season at Soulen lambing sheds where spring days and nights are spent delivering new born lambs. The Soulens will add hundreds of lambs to their herd over the next month. When the season is over more than 5-thousand head of sheep will summer in the high country.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Just in from Washington

Jake Putnam photo

U.S. House Approves Agricultural Credit Act

Washington--The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Agricultural Credit Act of 2009. The House Agriculture Committee approved both bills for consideration by the House earlier in March.

The Agricultural Credit Act of 2009 (H.R. 3509) reauthorizes funding for the state agricultural mediation grant program.

The grants fund local mediation programs that help farmers, their creditors, and USDA agencies take care of disputes including loan problems and USDA adverse decisions.

"The grant program for state agricultural mediation is a good-government program that helps thousands of Americans find practical solutions to loan problems and USDA adverse decisions," Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson said.

Chairman Peterson is the Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas is an original cosponsor of H.R. 3509, which attracted bipartisan support.

"I am pleased that my colleagues in the House joined me in passing the Agriculture Credit Act, said Peterson, Like most of the country, the agriculture sector is currently experiencing increased financial stress, which has created a greater need for the service of the agriculture mediator program."

"This program provides our farmers and ranchers with a voluntary and low-cost way to mediate disputes that arise between creditors, or to address adverse decisions with USDA," said Rep.Lucas.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dairy News from the MPI

Idaho Milk Production up 3.7 Percent over January

Washington--February 2010 milk production in the 23 states for which USDA reports monthly was 13.6 billion pounds, 0.1 percent above February 2009. January revised production at 14.8 billion pounds, down 0.5 from January 2009 - this revision represented an increase of 14 million pounds or 0.1 percent from last month's preliminary production estimate.

States that showed an increase when comparing this January's milk production with a year ago: Idaho up 3.7 percent; Illinois up 0.6 percent; Indiana up 1.1 percent; Iowa up 0.6 percent; Michigan up 3.5 percent; Minnesota up 1.4 percent; Ohio up 3.0 percent; Oregon up 3.5; Pennsylvania up 0.1 percent; Utah up 0.8 percent; Vermont up 0.5 percent; Washington up 6.9 percent; and Wisconsin up 5.7 percent.

States that declined: Arizona -6.8 percent; California -1.6 percent; Colorado -8.3 percent; Florida -5.0 percent; Kansas -6.8 percent; Missouri -9.8; New Mexico -5.0 percent; New York -0.7; Texas -5.4 percent; and Virginia -3.6 percent from a year ago.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

U of I Extension News

UI Extension’s food processing education aids dairy industry

Twin Falls--IN THE 10 YEARS since Jeff Kronenberg initiated his UI Extension food processing efforts in southern Idaho, he has brought educational, technical, and research services to Idaho’s food processing industries—currently the largest sub-sector of Idaho’s manufacturing complex.

After initially focusing on food safety, Kronenberg and the multi-university TechHelp partnership he serves expanded into lean manufacturing and artisan cheese making. Recently, he launched a new initiative to strengthen outreach in industrial dairy processing, with five workshops already under his belt and three more slated for spring.


Altogether 168 participants employed by at least eight Idaho dairy processors were attracted to the first five workshops in whey processing, industrial cheese making, pasteurization, dairy Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), and evaporating and drying, which were taught by some of the nation’s foremost experts. At Glanbia USA in Twin Falls, human resources vice president Shawn Athay called the workshops “very beneficial” to the firm’s workforce development efforts.


With Idaho currently third in the nation in both milk production and cheese processing, Kronenberg says improvements in efficiency and vigilance in food safety are key to continued competitiveness. Industry representatives told him they “want local training—not in Wisconsin, California, or Utah—and they want it targeted to their plant operations personnel.”“We make huge volumes of cheddar cheese, whey, and milk powder in Idaho, and there are basic manufacturing concepts that are critical for new and existing employees,” says Kronenberg, WSU/UI School of Food Science.

“The processors want to make sure their operators are getting top quality training, and that’s what we’re doing.”$49.8 million impact. The UI Extension food processing program extends beyond public workshops and short courses to specialized in-house trainings and on-site technical assistance with firms making everything from appetizers to salad dressings.

Surveys commissioned by the National Institute of Standards and Technology—with which TechHelp is affiliated—show that Kronenberg has made a $49.8 million difference to participating firms in increased sales, reduced costs, and six other measured impacts since 2005.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Just in--Beet Season On!

2010 Beet Season in Full Swing, But Future Uncertain

San Francisco--Farmers can plant roundup-ready genetically modified sugar beets this year, that’s the word from California Federal Court.

Judge Jeffrey White of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled against a temporary injunction filed by organic farmers out of Oregon. The ruling in effect allows farmers to plant, without further delay of the 2010 season.

"This ruling provides clarity that farmers can plant Roundup Ready sugarbeets in 2010," said Steve Welker, Monsanto Company's sugarbeet business manager.

Back on March 5, Judge White held a hearing to decide if preliminary injunctive relief was appropriate, pending completion of the case later this summer.

"Farmers have planted Roundup Ready sugarbeets for the past four years," added Welker. He stressed that the in the next phase of this case, Monsanto will demonstrate that a broad permanent injunction is not appropriate.

More than 95-percent of the nation's sugar supply comes from GMO beet seed and had the injunction been successful there wouldn't have been enough conventional seed for a full crop this year, according to court records. Beet industry insiders say the economic loss of the ban could have topped $1.5 billion.

But White did warn farmers and seed companies to not become too dependent on GMO seed.
"The parties should not assume that the court's decision to deny a preliminary injunction is indicative of its views on a permanent injunction," wrote White.

White added that until the U.S. Agriculture Department completes its court-ordered re-evaluation of the beets' environmental effects, White suggested that companies "take all efforts, going forward, to use conventional seed."

"We will prevail," said Idaho Beet Farmer Mike Garner. "We have a real good case, 95 percent of the industry switched to Roundup and had the injunction been successful it would have been catastrophic, food prices would skyrocket, no one is comfortable with that, nor wants it."

Sugarbeet growers say that Roundup Ready sugarbeets reduce impacts on the environment and make their operations more efficient and productive. Alternative technologies require more applications of pesticides, with greater impacts on the environment and lower productivity on farms.

More than 1 million acres of Roundup Ready sugarbeets were planted in 10 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. In North America last year, almost all sugarbeet acreage was safely planted with Roundup Ready seed.

Sage Grouse Conservation

New Initiative offers funding for sage-grouse conservation

Boise--Two Natural Resources Conservation Service programs offer potential funding for conserving or enhancing sage-grouse habitat on private agriculture land in Idaho. Producers can apply for financial assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) now through April 23, 2010.

“This new initiative will help Idaho proactively support sage-grouse conservation,” said Jeff Burwell, NRCS State Conservationist. “Landowners have the opportunity to voluntarily undertake practices that improve sage-grouse habitat and get financial assistance from NRCS to do so.”

Idaho will receive a portion of the $16 million national Sage-grouse Initiative allocation. Funding through EQIP or WHIP will be applied to conservation practices to improve sage grouse habitat.

“The Initiative will pay a percentage of the costs for implementing certain conservation practices,” said Burwell. “Examples of those practices include retrofitting existing fences to increase their visibility and reduce sage-grouse mortality; installing escape ramps for wildlife in watering facilities; deferring grazing in nesting areas to increase residual cover and increase brood survival rates; and treating noxious or invasive weeds to improve range condition and sage-grouse habitat.”

NRCS is working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to offer both technical and financial assistance to private landowners for sage-grouse related projects that reduce threats to sage-grouse habitat on agriculture land.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring time work in the fields

Young man and fire, originally uploaded by IdFarmBureau.

Idaho Farmers took to the fields this week, getting ready for planting while the weather is nice. This photo was taken near Hegler Creek Farms in Cassia County on Wednesday.

Farmers In the Fields in Raft River

Farmers Hit the Fields, 2010 Season Underway

Raft River--Farmer Mike Garner spent the morning plotting a berry patch, from there it was to the calf operation to install solar pannels on the roof of the calf barn.
Garner says its full speed ahead on the cattle and dairy side of the operation, but a California judge still has not ruled on the use of GMO beets, planting is just 10 days away.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Beef Counts

Idaho’s Beef Industry United Against Hunger
BOISE--Idaho’s beef industry has come together to help feed the more than 110,000 children, families and senior citizens that go hungry each month. The hungry is no longer the person living under an overpass or standing along a freeway exit with a cardboard sign. Today, the face of hunger is your neighbor, your friends, and even your family. When hearing of this need, Idaho’s beef industry partners including the Agri Beef Co., the Idaho Beef Council, the Idaho Cattle Association, and the Idaho CattleWomen Council established and endorsed Beef Counts, a novel program to eliminate hunger in Idaho.

Beef Counts is a program designed to provide a consistent supply of high quality protein throughout the year to the Idaho Foodbank. This is done through cash and animal contributions made by Idaho beef producers. Each animal or the cash equivalent of an animal provides approximately 1,600 servings, thanks to Agri Beef’s 50 percent matching contribution which doubles the contribution of every Idaho rancher.

High quality beef protein plays an increasingly important role in muscle development and maintenance, disease prevention, strength and metabolism. Protein also promotes satiety, or the feeling of being full. Currently, the Idaho Foodbank struggles to provide a consistent supply of protein for the more than 110,000 Idahoans that they serve. Currently, the Foodbank can only provide approximately 0.7 ounces of protein per day, per person. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends 6 ounces of protein per day for a healthy diet.

Together, the Idaho beef industry is dedicated to eliminating hunger throughout Idaho. The industry partners will work with the Idaho Foodbank and their 225 non-profit partners across Idaho to ensure every hungry person has access to the high quality beef protein donated by Idaho beef producers.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

National Agriculture Week

National Agriculture week kicks off this Sunday with the goal of educating Americans about the value of agriculture in their daily lives. Here are just some of the key reasons why it’s important to recognize—and celebrate—Ag Day each year:

Increased knowledge of agriculture and nutrition allows
individuals to make informed personal choices about diet
and health.

Informed citizens will be able to participate in establishing
the policies that will support a competitive agricultural
industry in this country and abroad.

Employment opportunities exist across the board in
agriculture. Career choices include:
• farm production
• agribusiness management and marketing
• agricultural research and engineering
• food science
• processing and retailing
• banking
• education
• landscape architecture
• urban planning
• energy
• and other fields.

Beginning in kindergarten and continuing through 12th
grade, all students should receive some systematic
instruction about agriculture.

Agriculture is too important a topic to be taught only to
the small percentage of students considering careers in
agriculture and pursuing vocational agricultural studies.

Agricultural literacy includes an understanding of
agriculture’s history and current economic, social and
environmental significance to all Americans. This
understanding includes some knowledge of food, fiber
and renewable resource production, processing and
domestic and international marketing.

Farm Economy News

Putnam photo

Federal Reserve Leaves Rates Unchanged

Washington--The Federal Reserve left its benchmark interest rates near zero this afternoon because of weak economic indicators, another sign that that United States is still slowly pulling itself out of the recession.
The Federal Open Market Committee left the Federal Funds target at zero to 0.25 percent, where it's been since December 2008. As it has said since March 2009, the committee said the rate was likely to remain "exceptionally low" for "an extended period." Some economists think that the Fed won't start tightening monetary policy until later this year at the soonest.
Farm Economists think that credit will remain tight this lending season and should remain that way until after harvest.

Latah County Farm Bureau News

Former Rangers: Current Locksa Land Exchange Not Good for Northern Idaho
By Bob Smathers
Moscow--Three retired rangers from the Palouse Ranger District attended a Latah County Farm Bureau meeting on March 9 in Moscow to express their concerns about the proposed Upper Locksa Land Exchange.

Larry Ross, Blake Ballard and Irv Johnson, all former rangers said the exchange is a bad deal for the communities adjacent to the Palouse Ranger District. The owner of the Locksa Parcels, Western Pacific Timber, LLC, is seeking to exchange 39,371 acres of mostly logged over land held in the Upper Lochsa with 28,212 acres of timbered Forest Service land that is mostly located in Latah, Clearwater, and Idaho Counties.

“The problem is that these Forest Service lands are far more valuable because of developed roads, culverts, timber productivity, and recreational amenities” says Ross. If these lands are exchanged, the public will be locked out of lands they have enjoyed for horseback riding, hiking, berry picking, wood cutting, timber harvest, grazing, fishing, photography, camping, hunting, 4-wheeling, and many other similar pursuits.

“They will be lost to the public” says Ross. The Forest Service said the discrepancies in value would be taken into consideration in the appraisal process. But, Ross says the appraisal process used by the Forest Service only takes into account the value of standing timber. Their value to the public or amenity value would not be accounted for in the Forest Service appraisal process.

The parcels in the Lochsa are located far from any populated areas and are rarely used for anything, but timber production, whereas the Palouse parcels are highly used by many people and for many uses including timber production.

“These lands that are being traded away are minutes away from most of the communities in North Central Idaho” says Ross. The most distant parcel being considered for possible trade is a 3 minute drive from Elk River and a 50 minute drive from Moscow. Most of the parcels being considered for possible trade are less than a 10 minute drive from one of the areas communities.

Conversely, the closest parcel being considered for acquiring in the Upper Lochsa is approximately 4 hours away from the communities in the Palouse region. Ross says that land alternatives that are far more fair to the public, have been offered to the Forest Service, but have been ignored. This is troubling, said Ross, "because the Forest Service has not been transparent."

Latah County Commissioners had no idea the Forest Service was talking about giving away thousands of acres in their county. “The process needs to be transparent and that has not been the case up until now” says Ross. The public needs to be in agreement on the parcels that are traded. The former rangers along with another organization called “The Friends of the Palouse Ranger District” are trying to enforce NEPA and an EIS to force public comment. The EIS is supposed to be available next summer; a 45 day public comment period will follow its release.

The former rangers and Friends of the Palouse Ranger District are encouraging the public and organizations to write letters to their congressional representatives and to forward them onto the Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, and managers and supervisors with the Forest Service in the Clearwater Region. “Each organization that feels strongly about this land exchange needs to go on record with the Forest Service that they oppose it” says Ross.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cattle Prices Looking Up

Steve Ritter photo
Caldwell Stock Yard Busy, Sellers Happy

Caldwell--Go to the Caldwell Auction and you see a jolly bunch of cowboys enjoying free roast beef sandwiches, happily buying and selling cattle. Its because prices for live cattle have crept up since early November, hitting their highest point in 15 months last week. Prices for feeder cattle under 700 pounds range from $102 to $131 per hundredweight.

Despite the trend, Grocery store prices for beef are lagging behind, but still steadily increasing.Industry insiders say shoppers have turned to cheaper protein sources as the economy soured, but are now buying beef again. Foreign markets are improving. At the same time, there are also fewer cattle being prepared for slaughter, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA reported last week that the number of cattle in feedlots fell to a seven-year low in January.

“Beef imports are stronger,” said Wallace Butler of the Idaho Farm Bureau, He says the key it that the total cattle inventory is down by almost a million head.

Immigration Update at the Statehouse

Putnam photo
Lawmakers Address Immigration
Boise--The Senate State Affairs Committe held legislation this past week that that would make Idaho employers use the national E-Verify system. Senator Michael Jorgenson sponsored the legislation but his bill went down in committee 2-7.

Two other bills, Senate Bill 1271 which enhances penalties for knowingly hiring legal workers, as well as using false indentification to obtain employment, did pass and was sent to the amending order.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Just in from Washington

Simpson Talks Western Land Management with BLM Director

Washington-Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson questioned the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) about its FY2011 budget request during a hearing in the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee this week. BLM Director Bob Abbey testified to the subcommittee, of which Simpson is Ranking Republican Member.

During the hearing, Simpson asked Director Abbey what the BLM is doing to address the significant backlog in grazing permits. Last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that sage-grouse is “warranted but precluded” from listing under the Endangered Species Act. Simpson expressed his concern that this decision would put an additional burden on the BLM, which is responsible for managing most of the current sage-grouse habitat, without providing additional resources for the agency to address its current backlog.

“While the Fish and Wildlife Service has stated that properly-managed grazing is not a principle threat to sage-grouse, I am concerned that this decision may only add to the problems the BLM is having in getting permits issued,” said Simpson. “I recognize that there are numerous things that have contributed to this backlog over the years, not the least of which is the fact that it is almost a given that the BLM will be sued by someone over every land management decision it makes. But at the end of the day, it is largely a problem of resources. I want to work with you to ensure that the BLM has the resources it needs to reduce the backlog of grazing permits over the next five years.” Director Abbey agreed to work with Congressman Simpson and the members of the subcommittee to address this problem.

The hearing also focused on recently-leaked Department of Interior internal planning document on new monument designations. “The problem with the Antiquities Act,” Simpson said,” is that national monuments can be designated by executive order without any input from residents and local leaders. When we look at national monument designations, let’s look forward and do them legislatively, the way they were intended to be done, so that the Antiquities Act is used as a tool for collaboration instead of a hammer.”

In addition to issues that directly impact land use in Idaho, the hearing also focused on energy and mineral development on public lands and the wild horse and burro program.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Precision Agriculture

At the 2010 Commodity Classic, Idaho wheat farmer Robert Blair had a discussion with Ford West of The Fertilizer Institute. In this clip they talk about how precision agriculture fits into the discussion of promoting modering farming practices to consumers, and the barriers to precision adoption among U.S. farmers.

2010 Snow Pack

Water Supply: Still Below Normal
Boise--Despite a series of storms and a drop in temperatures; Snow survey data collected last week across Idaho by the natural Resources Conservation service show February's snowpack is still below normal precipitation. The near record low winter precipitation has resulted in meager snow packs across the state that are just 55 to 75% of average.

“The highest snow packs are along the State’s western and southern edges since they are affected by the major storms hitting the southwestern states,” said Ron Abramovich, Water Supply specialist for NRCS. “That’s the El Nino weather pattern – where the southwest gets above average snowfall and the Pacific Northwest is dry.”

The bulk of Idaho’s water supply comes from high mountain snow packs. The majority of reservoir inflows come from snow packs above 6,000 in southern Idaho and above 4,500 feet in northern Idaho. Given the low snow packs, runoff will be below normal across the state and irrigation water shortages are predicted in many central, southern and eastern Idaho basins.

Two critical snow measuring stations in the Upper Snake Basin in Yellowstone National Park are the 3rd lowest since records start in 1919. The snow pack in this area affects water supply in eastern Idaho.“February’s mountain precipitation was ranged from 30-55% of average, adding to below average amount for November, December and January,” said Abramovich.

“Because of the low precipitation amounts, stream flow forecasts decreased from February predictions.”Most reservoirs across the state are storing above average amounts for March 1. However, with well below average stream flow predicted for this summer, irrigation demand will draw down reservoirs to their minimal storage levels by summer’s end and greatly increase the need for good snow next winter.”

“One last hope to salvage this year’s water supply would be to receive a cool and wet spring,” Abramovich added. “Above average precipitation and cool temperatures in April and May would delay snow melt, keeping the snowpack in the high country longer.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sugar Beets in Limbo

Court decision in California could delay the Gem State Sugar Beet Season

Boise--With planting just two weeks away in Southwest Idaho, A Federal District judge in San Francisco could delay planting until he rules on an injunction filed by Oregon organic farmers over the use of genetically modified sugar beet seed.
Sugar industry attorneys say that judge Jeffery White took under advisement the request to stop the use of Roundup Ready sugar beet seed across the nation last Friday, there’s still no word from Federal District Court.

Mark Duffin, Executive Director of the Idaho Sugar Beet Association says it’s too early to speculate on White’s decision, but growers are getting antsy this close to planting time. Over 95-percent of last year’s crop were GMO seeded crop.

"The decision will have an effect on the beet season," said Duffin. “If he decides to issue the injunction it will impact us, if he doesn’t we'll get back to work.”
David Berg, of American Crystal Sugar out of Minnesota, said U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White hasn’t said how long he will take to rule on the injunction motion. Berg told his growers that they’re preparing courses of action either way.

Oregon organic farmers and environmental groups filed the injunction last year claiming that growing genetically modified beet seed threatens crops and food safety in general.

Stopping GMO seed use would dramatically drive up labor costs across the Gem State, labor now used in other crops at a time when workers are increasingly hard to find.

The beets’ engineered immunity to the popular herbicide Roundup, made by Monsanto, allows growers to more easily control weeds in the crop during the growing season. Almost Idaho’s entire beet crop last year was GMO seed.

Judge White ruled last summer that the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2005 had prematurely approved Roundup Ready sugar beet seed for commercial use without doing enough study of the environmental effects of growing the seed in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

The questions that will get addressed in the June hearing in federal court in San Francisco will include whether use of the seed should be stopped during the two- or three-year process of USDA doing the further study.

“We understand that Judge White does not have a record of frequently ruling from the bench, so we suspected this would be the outcome,” said Berg, who said he spoke to both attorneys Friday, as well as others with knowledge of White’s action.

But he knows growers are asking around to find out how they could get conventional seed if they need it, Berg said. But that would be a bleak prospect, Berg said, because the conventional seed supplies “are not sufficient to plant a whole crop.”

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Just in from American Farm Bureau

Farm Bureau President: Tell Your Story, Engage on Issues

Washington--American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman is telling farmers that American agriculture has a great story to tell, and farmers and ranchers across the country must tell their stories, or be drowned out by critics “who are more than happy to tell the story of agriculture for us.”

Speaking Friday at the Louisiana Farmer of the Year Banquet, Stallman said farmers and ranchers continue to face many new threats. The challenges include federal regulations that go beyond the scope of law, taxes that threaten the future of family-based farming and extremists who oppose modern farms and ranches on every front.

Stallman said one-such challenge is federal cap-and-trade, climate-change legislation. A bill approved by the House would sharply cut the number of U.S. acres devoted to food production, replacing them with forest acres, at a time when experts says the world should be focused on feeding a growing world population.

“USDA suggests we could easily be talking about 59 million acres leaving food and crop production under cap and trade,” Stallman told the Louisiana farmers. “That would mean roughly the equivalent of every one of Louisiana’s 8.1 million acres of farmland, times seven.”
While the climate change policy battle rages on in Congress, the Obama administration is using a heavy handed regulatory scheme that could deal a harsh economic penalty to agriculture. In the case of the Environmental Protection Agency determining that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide endanger public health and welfare, Stallman said the agency overreached its legal authority.

“In its quest to ensure environmental quality, we believe the regulatory reach of the Environmental Protection Agency has simply gone too far,” Stallman said. “EPA issued a finding in December that determined greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. EPA’s action constitutes the first step toward economy-wide regulation of greenhouse gases through the Clean Air Act. The agency is trying to achieve through regulation what has failed to pass Congress and failed as well at the recent international talks in Copenhagen.

AFBF is one of several groups that have filed a legal challenge to the EPA’s greenhouse gas “endangerment finding.” The organization also is backing bipartisan legislative efforts to disapprove of the EPA action.

Stallman also told the Louisiana farmers about efforts by AFBF to lessen the impact of federal estate taxes on agriculture. The tax is totally repealed for 2010, but comes roaring back with a vengeance in 2011.

“At Farm Bureau, we believe the estate tax should be repealed; it is an unfair, immoral tax,” Stallman said. “One should not have to deal with the undertaker and the tax man on the same day. But until the tax is repealed, we are urging Congress to work for meaningful estate tax reform by enacting an exemption of $10 million, indexed for inflation.

“As all of you know our farms and ranches are capital-intensive businesses with a high concentration of assets tied up in land, building and equipment. We are always land-rich and cash-poor. That’s why the estate tax hits our families so hard. That’s why we are calling on Congress to do all it can to help us preserve agriculture’s family connection and pass legislation to fix this problem.”

Stallman also took the Louisiana speech as an opportunity to repeat a call for unity, empowerment and inclusiveness among farmers and ranchers, against the many “external forces tugging at agriculture’s seams.”

“American agriculture is a big tent and it takes each and every one of us to put a meal on America’s dinner table,” Stallman said. “We must not let words used by critics drive a wedge between us. As we are attacked by the activists and critics of our great agriculture production system…and burdened with costly regulations put in place by our political leaders, we must not give in. We will not give up.”

Monday, March 8, 2010

Just in from Washington

Harshbarger Farm-Jake Putnam photo

WASHINGTON-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack launched USDA's Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for Farmers Program to help American agricultural producers adjust to the current, challenging economic environment.

"As we work to help rural America recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers Program will create new opportunities for producers hurt by import competition," said Vilsack. "Eligible producers will receive much-needed technical assistance and cash benefits to help them adjust to the current economic environment."

In August, USDA requested public comments on a proposed rule for establishing the procedures and eligibility criteria for receiving assistance. Comments focused on payment limitations and adjusted gross income, specialty crops, and length of intensive training. The interim rule, published in the Federal Register on March 1, immediately implements the TAA for Farmers Program and provides for an additional 30-day public comment period.

Re-authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the TAA for Farmers Program applies to producers of raw agricultural commodities and fishermen who show a greater than 15 percent decrease-contributed importantly by an increase in imports-in the national average price; the quantity of production; the value of production; or in cash receipts compared to the average of the three preceding marketing years. The assistance includes help in developing business adjustment plans that can serve as a guide for adjusting a producer's business operation to prevailing economic conditions.

USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service administers the TAA for Farmers Program with assistance from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the Farm Service Agency and the Agricultural Marketing Service.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Just in from the Range

BLM: Cancel WWP's Grazing Permit

Challis--The Bureau of Land Management wants to terminate Western Watersheds Project’s grazing permits for the Greenfire Preserve on the East Fork of the Salmon River near Challis.

Two leaders of the group were cited by a BLM special agent for making false statements.
Jonathan Marvel of Western Watershed Project of Hailey and Gordon Younger of Seattle were cited by Agent Kent Kleman for ‘knowingly and willfully making a false statements’ on grazing allotments in the Challis District.

Dave Rosenkrance of the BLM Challis field office said he had no choice but to cancel the permits because WWP had “loss of control over the base ranch property, failure to maintain range improvements and making false statements on grazing applications." He added that the permit was never used for livestock grazing as required.

“It’s high time they called him (Marvel) on it,” said John Falen of the Public Lands Council. “None of the rest of us operating out here on public lands could get away with what he has. He’s been the biggest thorn in the side of the BLM than any other permitee.”

The permit covers three grazing allotments that include Spud Creek, Bradshaw Basin and Thompson creek and total more than 9,000 acres near the confluence of the Salmon and East Fork of the Salmon River, near Challis.

According to BLM records, on November 6, 2008 the Challis office asked Valley Sun Land and Livestock Company to provide proof of cattle ownership to graze the three allotments in the Challis District. The WWP acknowledged the letter, but didn’t respond to the information request. On December 19, five weeks later the BLM again asked for proof of cattle ownership on the Spud Creek allotment, again they received the request but didn't respond and the BLM sought information again in 2009 before Dave Rosenkrance took action.

"The BLM is looking for excuses to cancel the permits and hand it over to adjoining ranchers," Jonathan Marvel told the Idaho Mountain Express. "It's clear the BLM has a bias for ranchers."
Rosenkrance wrote that Marvel and Valley Sun “has shown no indication of actually using the grazing permit for livestock grazing use” as required by the Taylor Grazing Act. Between 2001 and 2009 the group applied for non-use of the permit, never intending, according to the BLM to actually graze cattle on the land.

The Valley Sun LLC said in BLM documents that it was in the process of buying livestock and wished to designate non-use for conservation purposes. Yet, according to the BLM they never turned cattle out on the allotments. Rosenkrance told the Challis Messenger that they could have bought livestock on any Friday at the Blackfoot auction, “it shouldn’t have taken the group years to buy cattle.”
Jennifer Ellis of the Western Legacy Alliance says that WWP needs to play by the same rules as everyone else, "We've been saying for years that grazing permits are for grazing, not for pushing radical agendas at taxpayer expense."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Regulating Greenhouse Gas

AFBF Backs Bipartisan House Effort to Nullify EPA Proposal
WASHINGTON--The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed scheme to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act is “economically harmful, legally suspect and environmentally indefensible,” according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

AFBF is urging House members to support a bipartisan resolution to disapprove EPA’s greenhouse gas proposal, H.J. Res. 76, introduced by Reps. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.).

The resolution would nullify EPA’s proposal, which is built around the agency’s flawed finding in December 2009 that greenhouse gases indirectly threaten human health and therefore could be regulated under the Clean Air Act.

The resolution to disapprove EPA’s proposal would not weaken any environmental protections, but would simply provide Congress the appropriate opportunity to debate and legislate in this area, according to AFBF.

“U.S. farmers and ranchers will be harmed by higher energy and fertilizer costs if EPA is allowed to move forward with its proposal to regulate GHGs,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. Further, according to AFBF, if EPA is allowed to move forward with its proposal, “it appears likely that for the first time in history, even medium- and small-sized farming operations might have to comply” with expensive permitting requirements.

“Such policy decisions, which will affect the entire U.S. economy for decades to come, should be made by elected officials, not by a regulatory agency,” Stallman said. He also encouraged both chambers of Congress to work toward bipartisan consensus on the disapproval matter.

AFBF also strongly supports S.J. Res. 26, a resolution introduced in the Senate by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to disapprove EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases. The Peterson-Skelton-Emerson resolution introduced in the House is identical to Murkowski’s resolution in the Senate, as well as another House resolution, H.J. Res 77, introduced by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas).

Just in from Washington

East of Ashton, Idaho--Jake Putnam photo

USDA Plans CRP Enrollment
Washington--The United States Department of Agriculture will conduct a Conservation Reserve Program general enrollment sign-up this spring for the first time since 2006, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced Saturday.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack signed a memorandum of understanding with Pheasants Forever President and CEO Howard Vincent on Saturday at the Pheasant Fest expo in Des Moines. With the Memorandum, Pheasants Forever will help USDA agencies work on habit restoration and education on USDA conservation programs.

Speaking to a crowd of hunters and conservationists at the Pheasants Fest show, Vilsack drew cheers from the crowd when announcing the enrollment. The Farm Service Agency is working to complete an environmental impact statement to start the CRP enrollment that could take place in late spring or early summer, he said. The enrollment would replace as many as 4.4 million acres in contracts expected to expire in September 2010, one of the largest potential drops in acreage in the program's history.

"In addition to replacing acres that come out of CRP, we also want to improve the quality of the acres that come out of the program," Vilsack said. "We want to do more, more for water, more for wildlife and more for climate, and we want to do a better job on the same amount of acres."That means the program has to target the most worthwhile CRP acres, Vilsack said.

USDA would concentrate on acreage that would reduce farm runoff into rivers such as the Missouri and Mississippi River basins to improve water quality. Vilsack said it's important the program "give the American taxpayers more bang for the buck while addressing some of the most important conservation challenges facing us."

Come September, the biggest contract expirations would be in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas. The general sign-up would ideally replace those acres and also push overall acreage back to the 32-million acre level. The 2008 farm bill lowered CRP acreage from 36.7 million to a cap of 32 million acres. Right now, the program covers about 31.4 million acres. Acreage has declined partially because of the lower cap, but also because higher commodity prices over the past three years have pushed up farm rental rates and made CRP payment rates less competitive.

Right now there are no plans to dramatically increase CRP rates. "This is a challenge for us, obviously, but we think that the crop prices are moderating a little bit that may make it a little easier than in the past," Vilsack said. "I think we need to focus on the non-productive, or not-as-productive land, and to explain that in the long run this could be a good decision."

As House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., begins hearings on a 2012 farm bill, Vilsack said this enrollment is a chance to put a spotlight on conservation programs "so they don't get lost in a lot of other discussions that could take place.

"There are added incentives for farmers willing to allow access to their land to hunt and fish as part of a $50 million fund available as well, Vilsack said, that could make CRP payment rates more competitive. Still, Vilsack added, "We're going to struggle mightily to get as close to 32 million (acres) as we possibly can," he said. "I can't guarantee we can get there. A lot of it is projections. We'll see what this sign-up brings and what the reaction is to better targeting."

A buffer-strip initiative would be critical, taking lands around streams and rivers to improve water quality. Vilsack worked on a similar project with Pheasants Forever as governor of Iowa, enrolling farmers in buffer-strip acreage set-asides that reduced farm runoff and also improved hunting grounds in parts of the state.

Later this year USDA will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the CRP, which was created in the 1985 farm bill. Plugging the administration focus on climate change, Vilsack also noted the CRP is the nation's largest private-lands carbon sequestration project, capturing the emissions equivalent of about 10 million cars.

Vilsack said he is worried about the large number of acres that have come out of CRP. The program has helped reduce soil erosion by 44 percent since the program's creation, but still 1.7 billion tons of soil are lost to wind and water erosion annually. Pheasant populations have declined dramatically since some states saw a peak in hunting harvests in 2006, partially due to the loss of CRP acreage in prairie states.

Bad spring weather in states such as Iowa also decimated pheasant populations. Vilsack also signed a memorandum of the continuous sign-up program of CRP by reallocating 300,000 CRP acres to three different wildlife initiatives. One shift adds 50,000 acres to a duck-habitat restoration initiative. Another adds 100,000 acres the upland bird initiative, also known as "quail buffers."
Further, some states have aggressively enrolled acres into USDA's State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement, or SAFE, so USDA will add another 150,000 acres to those states that have maxed-out their allotted acres. The MOU with Pheasants Forever establishes a closer relationship between the hunting group and agencies such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency, allowing Pheasants Forever to better work with landowners and farmers to implement farm-bill conservation practices.

Noting that hunting is a $67 billion in industry, Vilsack said a 4 percent increase in CRP acreage in a given area has shown to increase pheasant populations 22 percent and duck populations by 46 percent.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Just in from the Range


Moreland--The Western Legacy Alliance wholeheartedly offers its full support to H.R. 4717, the Open EAJA Act of 2010 which will begin the process of uncovering how deep-pocketed environmental groups and their army of lawyers have abused the Equal Access to Justice Act receiving millions in taxpayer dollars to advance their agenda. This bipartisan effort co-authored by Representatives Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) and Rob Bishop (R-UT) will open the government’s books and finally shed some light on these abuses.

The Equal Access to Justice Act was never intended to be used as a funding source for any political cause or as a backdoor to advancing an agenda. Almost 30 years ago, with the best of intentions Congress passed the EAJA. Simply stated EAJA said that if the government had done wrong against small businesses, including farms and ranches, and they challenged the government in federal court, they would not have to go bankrupt awash in legal fees protecting their rights. If they were victorious in court, the government would have to pay their legal fees. It leveled the playing field so that Citizen David could stand up and defend himself against Big Government Goliath.

EAJA abuse is just the tip of the iceberg as these radical environmental groups have tapped other sources of taxpayer dollars that were never meant for that purpose to fund their agenda. As Congress begins the process of following the money trail of EAJA abuse, we urge them to continue uncovering other ways that the taxpayer’s hard earned dollars are being used to advance a particular political agenda and support the ever growing cottage industry of environmental lawyers and the special interests that profit from this abuse.

With soaring deficits, Congress needs to ensure that every taxpayer dollar is spent wisely. H.R.4717 should be the first of many steps in that direction. Representatives
Lummis, Herseth Sandlin and Bishop should be commended for their groundbreaking efforts and we urge all Members of Congress to sign on as co-sponsors to this important legislation.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Harvest For All

Farm Bureau Families Raise Record Funds for America’s Hungry
WASHINGTON--The farm and ranch families of Farm Bureau last year raised more than $213,000 and donated more than 4.8 million pounds of food to hungry Americans as part of Farm Bureau’s “Harvest for All” program. Combined, the monetary and food donations provided the equivalent of nearly 5.3 million meals through Feeding America-affiliated food banks.

The money raised last year was a record and broke the prior record of $160,000 in 2008. Farm Bureau’s Harvest for All program began in 2004, and the program has continued to build momentum since then.

Members of Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers & Ranchers program spearhead the Harvest for All program across the nation, but all facets of Farm Bureau contribute to the effort. The joint effort between Farm Bureau and Feeding America is a national community-action program through which farmers can help ensure that every American can enjoy the bounty produced by the nation’s farm and ranch families.

“In these difficult economic times, Harvest for All is all the more important,” said Will Gilmer, AFBF YF&R chairman and a dairy producer from Lamar County, Ala. “As farmers and ranchers, we are blessed to work every day, feeding America and the world. Harvest for All is a great way to share our many blessings with those less fortunate than we are.”

Aside from raising food and funds for the initiative, farmers and ranchers tallied 5,449 volunteer hours assisting hunger groups through the Harvest for All program.

“We are so grateful to Farm Bureau for the dedication to fighting domestic hunger with Feeding America and our network of more than 200 food banks across the nation,” said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America. “The Harvest for All program makes a tremendous difference in our efforts to provide food to millions of people struggling with hunger year after year. We thank the Farm Bureau for its ongoing dedication and generosity.”

The Illinois Farm Bureau took top honors for raising the most funds in 2009 at $92,112. The New York Farm Bureau was number one in food donated at 3.65 million pounds. The top honor for volunteer time went to Michigan Farm Bureau at 2,754 volunteer hours. Each YF&R Committee from the three winning states received a $1,500 grant from the American Farm Bureau Federation to donate to the food bank of their choice.

Second place winners were Indiana for funds donated at $46,894; Pennsylvania for food donated at 631,748 pounds of food; and Illinois for volunteer time at 1,854 volunteer hours. Second place winners received a $1,000 grant from AFBF to donate to the food bank of their choice.

In addition, five state YF&R committees received $500 grants for “most innovative” programs. The winners are Indiana for “Piggy Bank Promotion;” Michigan for “Chicken Project;” New York for “Feed the Hungry;” Pennsylvania for “Lady Moon Farm Project;” and South Dakota for “Great PETA-Inspired Milk Donation.”

The awards were presented this week, during AFBF’s YF&R Conference in Tulsa, Okla.

Since Harvest for All was launched seven years ago, Farm Bureau families have gathered more than 20 million pounds of food, logged more than 35,000 volunteer hours and raised nearly $1 million in donations. Combined, the food and monetary donations amount to nearly 24 million meals.

AFBF President Bob Stallman said support for Feeding America through Harvest for All will remain a priority for Farm Bureau.

“We are proud to partner with Feeding America in their hunger relief efforts,” Stallman said. “During this economic downturn, more Americans are relying on food banks to help feed themselves and their families. Farm Bureau’s farm and ranch families are strongly committed to helping those in need.”

Monday, March 1, 2010

Latah County Farm Bureau News

Michael Bogert, Bob Smathers photo

Problem on the Palouse: Worm ESA Listing
Moscow--The counselor to former U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne told members of Latah and Whitman County Farm Bureaus along with environmental activists that listing of the Palouse giant earthworm presents legal problems.

Former Idahoan and U of I Law school graduate Michael Bogert served as chief council to Kempthorne and is a former regional administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Bogert is now working out of D.C. as senior counsel for Crowell and Moring's Environment and Natural Resources Group.

"The listing should be avoided at all costs as there is simply no way to predict what impact it will have on ag practices down the road if everything has to go to ESA Section 7 consultation," said Bogert.

He stressed that while the giant Palouse earthworm is invisible, it still presents problems for the Palouse. Scientists have documented just a few of the illusive worms with the last sighting back in 2008. But that hasn't stopped Conservation groups from trying to get the worm listed as endangered or threatened. "Having to deal with a listed species on the Palouse is not something we're used to dealing with," Bogert said.

The first petition back in 2006 was rejected by the Fish and Wildlife Service based on lack of data about the worm and its habitat; an appeal was also rejected. The Friends of the Palouse and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a new petition in June that claims the worm's habitat stretches from the Palouse to the Columbia River drainage region, but with little evidence to go on.

However, the Fish and Wildlife Service did not respond to the petition in the maximum 90 days after it was filed. Bogert said he checked the federal register on Friday, and the FWS still had not responded.

"The legal issue is simply because we can't find (the worms), and they're scarce, does that automatically mean they warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act?" he said.
He said if the worm is listed as an endangered species, the government would determine its critical habitat and require all people to avoid disturbing that habitat.

Bogert says with little habitat data, it could stretch ESA standards and end up being a case-study in the review process. "I think there is a good chance these guys will take it to the next level."

National Nutrition Month

Beef Up Health and Live Life to the Fullest
Protein and other nutrients in beef shown to help prevent many age-related health issues

BOISE– March 1st kicks off nutrition month, and nothing says nutrition like beef. With a recent study noting that life expectancy in the U.S. has reached an all-time high of nearly 78 years1, now is the time for older adults to start focusing on ways to improve their health and make the most of those extra years. Even small steps can lead to better overall health and one easy step that older adults can take is to beef up their diet – literally.

Experience the Anti-Aging Benefits of Lean Beef. Emerging research suggests that consuming high-quality protein, like the protein in lean beef, could be a dietary solution to many age-related health issues and chronic diseases. What’s more, in addition to protein, one 3-ounce serving of lean beef is a great source of nine other key nutrients, including zinc, iron, B vitamins and niacin, many of which may also be important in fighting a variety of age-related health issues, such as:

·Sarcopenia – Sarcopenia is a little-known but often debilitating condition that causes a decrease in lean muscle mass with age, which can result in lower bone density, less strength, and a higher risk of falls and fractures. Research has shown that consuming four ounces of lean beef protein each day can help enhance muscle development and may delay the onset of sarcopenia.

·Alzheimer’s/Cognitive Health – A growing body of research suggests that niacin and B vitamins may help in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline. Beef is an excellent source of vitamin B12 and a good source of niacin and vitamin B6.

·Bone Health/Osteoporosis – Calcium isn’t the only nutrient important for bone health. Bones also need enough protein to reach their peak performance. A study confirmed that adults between the ages of 50 and 69 who ate more protein-rich foods, such as beef, had fewer hip fractures resulting from osteoporosis.

·Type 2 Diabetes – A research review indicated that increasing daily high-quality protein intake can improve muscle metabolism and a growing body of evidence suggests muscle metabolism may also play a role in the prevention of many chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.

Beef Up your Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
There are 29 cuts of beef that meet government guidelines for “lean,” making it easy to incorporate beef throughout the day as part of an active, healthy lifestyle at any age. Try these suggestions to enjoy the anti-aging benefits of beef throughout the day.

Incorporate spice into a breakfast burrito by adding scrambled eggs and 95 percent lean ground beef cooked with taco seasoning.

Power up a traditional lunchtime salad by adding strips of flank steak.
Add slices of grilled sirloin to a vegetable wrap topped with basil and drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette.

Pump up mac ‘n’ cheese by adding lean ground beef.
Mix 95 percent lean ground beef meatballs into a tomato and grilled vegetable spaghetti sauce.
Add lean beef sirloin strips to a stir-fry loaded with fresh broccoli and carrots.

To learn more about the benefits of beef on your longevity, visit and

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