Monday, May 31, 2010

A Farmers Opinion

Robert Blair demonstrates precision agriculture on his Kendrick farm.
What is You Definition of “Sustainable Agriculture?”

By Robert Blair, Farmer
What is “sustainable agriculture?” The definition of "sustain" is: (v) maintain, continue, carry on, keep up, or keep going among a few others. The antonym or opposite is "quit." It is difficult to find a true definition of “sustainable” in online dictionaries that are not skewed towards eco-activist type definitions.

In defining "sustainable agriculture," the true definition would be to keep going or keep up. Those of us in production agriculture not only have to keep going, but we need to keep up with the increasing demand placed upon world agriculture production. A couple of definitions regarding “sustainable agriculture” online are: “Agriculture that is socially just, humane, economically viable, and environmentally sound” or “Agricultural practices that seek to preserve environmental integrity, foster integrate farming communities, increase farm profitability based on diversified activities, and enhance political systems that take into account all stakeholders in the farming community.” I did not realize that farmers were to grow better political systems but you get the picture?

While there were many variations defining “sustainable agriculture,” there are definitions I think most farmers would agree with and practice every day. The one I would associate myself with is: “Sustainable agriculture integrates three main goals: environmental stewardship, farm profitability, and prosperous farming communities.” It does not specifically state increased food production for world demand, but today’s agriculture needs to realize that our farming community goes beyond our back 40 or city limit sign to encompass the world.

Unfortunately there are many different techniques used to thwart “sustainable agriculture.” Trade barriers, lawsuits, and short sighted governmental decisions against biotechnology are not allowing agriculture to keep up with demand in a timely manner. There are so many positives to be gained, not only for farmers and ranchers, but for every mom who budgets out tight resources for quality food during these tough economic times.

I am currently at odds with the local school about “sustainable agriculture.” My son watched the movie Food Inc. (and I suggest all farmers watch it to understand what the other side is thinking) which led to me being at odds because of the dangers I perceive in students watching the movie Food Inc. without proper counter arguments. My resolve strengthened after watching the movie, especially upon the slanted view and focus that only a “John Denver” or an “American Gothic” type farmer can grow food that is acceptable in America. That view is a travesty, but “Thank God I’m A Country Boy!” (I could not resist the pun.)

There is a place and demand for "locally grown" or "organic" food which is closely associated with “sustainable agriculture,” but it cannot "sustain" levels of production to keep up with future demand. Besides, the farmers I know and have always grown food locally would relish the chance to visit with non-farmers about their crops and a chance to take their money.

The movie’s main focus is on “big industry” and “factory farms.” I have traveled across the United States and have yet to see smoke stacks sprouting out of fields. What I have witnessed is prime farmland, pasture land, and timberland cultivated for urban and suburban sprawl. Instead of raising wheat, corn, or other crops the land is now raising houses, quickie marts, and shopping centers. Is that the face of the new “sustainable agriculture?”

Also the movie implied that farmers are bad for the environment for their practice of tilling land and applying fertilizer or pesticides. I do not know one farmer that wants to lose topsoil or apply more pesticides or fertilizer than is needed. Any business that would spend more on inputs than is needed is illogical. Furthermore, erosion rates have dropped dramatically since the 1960’s because of better pesticides, higher yielding crops leading to increased residue, and advancements made in tillage practices and equipment.

The question now, “Is agriculture in a downward spiral because of reducing erosion? By relying upon pesticides brought about by governmental policy to farm certain ways and competitive environmental programs designed to make New York City and San Francisco Senators and Congressmen vote a certain way, are we as agriculture on the path to self termination?

What will happen when resistance to chemicals is too great to “sustain” current levels of production? Will agriculture be allowed to do tillage to control weeds and disease? Will chemical companies catch a break from Congress and the media to bring products onto the market in a timely manner that will work properly?

The battle agriculture is facing is a battle that is centuries old: The control of land and water! There is a decreasing population of people that control both, so the "have nots" are trying to find ways to gain control. The method they have chosen is through media, lawsuits, and government. They play upon the emotions of grade school through high school children by not telling the complete story. I hope for the sake of American agriculture and the safety and security of our bountiful food supply that their efforts are not “sustainable.”

Friday, May 28, 2010

Chandler Lambing Shed

Third graders from Weiser enjoyed a special field trip this afternoon, the students got an up close and personal view of a working ranch. The Chandlers opened up their operation for a few busload of kids on Friday afternoon. Steve Ritter was there with his camera.

Input Costs

World Oil Demand Projected to Slow Down

Washington--World oil demand is down slightly from last year according to the Energy Information Administration projections. The report states that while world oil demand will continue to grow through 2030, it's less than earlier forecasts, because of a combination of renewable fuels and higher oil prices in the equation.

The Energy Information's just released forecast shows global oil demand will average 103.9 million barrels per day in 2030, down 3 million barrels per day from last year's forecast of 106.9 barrels per day.

The EIA's Richard Newell says that renewable fuels are the fastest-growing energy supply, but stressed that "fossil fuels are still set to meet more than three-fourths of total energy needs in 2035."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

AFBF Backs Bill With Vital Farm and Ranch Tax Provisions

WASHINGTON-The House is expected to vote soon on legislation that includes a number of tax provisions vital to farmers and rural America.

The American Farm Bureau Federation is urging the House to pass the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act. In a letter sent to members of the House today, AFBF President Bob Stallman called for prompt passage of the bill to reinstate many tax provisions that expired at the end of 2009.

“This bill includes a number of tax provisions that many farmers and ranchers have turned to over the years to protect the bottom line,” said Stallman. “Among these are extension of tax incentives for biodiesel and renewable diesel, five-year depreciation for farming business machinery and equipment and a number of other tax deductions that farmers and ranchers rely on to manage cash flow.”

In his letter, Stallman pointed to biodiesel tax incentives as vital for the development and expansion of renewable energy in the U.S.
“Clean, renewable, domestic energy is helping achieve economic growth, create a cleaner environment and shield our economy from unreliable foreign energy sources. Farmers and ranchers are playing a bigger role in supplying our nation with the energy it needs through the production of agricultural-based renewable energy resources,” Stallman wrote.

Tax provisions that provide incentives to upgrade operations, donate food and preserve farmland are also key elements in the bill for rural America, according to Stallman.

“Most farmers and ranchers pay taxes as individuals which means that individual tax rates and deductions have a huge impact on the amount of after-tax income that they have,” Stallman wrote.

“Farm Bureau supports extension of the standard deduction for state and local real property taxes and the deduction of state and local sales taxes and other provisions that increase after-tax dollars for farm families.”

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

1st Congressional Race

1st Congressional Race Upset
BOISE -Raul Labrador pulled off an 11th hour upset over Vaughn Ward Tuesday night in a bitter First Congressional District battle. Labrador will face incumbent Democrat Walt Minnick in November.

Ward had key endorcements, a Sara Palin visit, double digit lead, but credibility problems down the stretch may have doomed the Twin Falls native. Raul Labrador watched the election returns all night from GOP headquarters. With victory at hand, the State Representative from Eagle called for party unity.

"I think you're going to see the Republican Party just gel together, and come together to talk to me and to work hard," Labrador told KTVB. "We need to defeat Walt Minnick. We need to make sure that we have this seat so we can defeat Nancy Pelosi. And we can get rid of the democratic agenda," he said.

The last precincts in the Congressional race came in at 7 a.m. Wednesday morning because of vote-counting machine failure up north. When the dust cleared Raul Labrador took away 48-percent of the votes with Ward getting just 39-percent.

Idaho Primary 2010

Steve Ritter photo
Voters send Incumbents Packing
Boise--Six Republican incumbents from the Idaho Legislature lost primary elections on Tuesday with the biggest upset coming from Twin Falls. Lee Heider, a Twin Falls City Councilman beat three-term Republican state Sen. Chuck Coiner; The city councilman took 56 percent of the vote.

Other republican incumbent losses include Sens. Mike Jorgenson, of Hayden Lake, and Leland Heinrich of Cascade; and Reps. Richard Jarvis, of Meridian, and Steve Kren, of Nampa.
Voting machines broke down in Latah county so results are still trickling in from Moscow, but, Gresham Bouma, with ties to the tea party movement has a 12-percentage point lead over Sen. Gary Schroeder.

Voter turnout: Light but normal

Voter turnout in rural Gem County was light throughout Tuesday--Steve Ritter photo

Primary Voter Turnout Light
Boise--Voter turnout topped 25-percent in Tuesdays primaries, some counties with uncontested races has even lower turnouts according to the poll watchers.

Secretary of State Ben Ysursa's office oversees Idaho elections and says the final numbers are not in yet but should range between 25.3 to 26.8 percent, according to the secretary of state’s website. General Election turnout numbers should top the 70-percent mark in November.

Idaho Ag off to a slow start

Homedale--Farmer Pat Takasugi of Homedale says forecasters got their cool, wet temperatures that they had hoped for in February, now he hopes for heat and sunshine. He says his onion crop has stalled because of cold weather and is unable to fight off pests.

“Bugs, disease, whenever you get a situation where the onion sits in the ground they’re vulnerable to everything, “said Takasugi, “that’s the vulnerable stage. We’re seeing just that, thinning stands of onions and it needs to be warming up; a normal summer?” He laughs,” Haven’t seen one in a while.”

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Winter hangs on across Idaho

The Portneuf range is covered with snow, cool temps slow growing season in Southeast Idaho--Joann Kington photo
Winter holds on across Idaho
Boise--Over the weekend Treasure Valley residents woke up to three inches of snow in the Boise Foothills and endured a record 1.4 inches of rain along with frigid 40-degree temperatures. According to the National Weather Service the Bogus and Owyhee Basins were buried under more than a foot of heavy, wet snow.

“The corn’s yellow and it’s because of the cool temperatures,” said Middleton Farmer Sid Freeman. “Nothing’s growing; there’s no sugars being created in the plant to keep them green and lush, no photosynthesis going on at all. The weather is stressing them out,” he sighs.

Ron Abramovich of National Resource and Conservation Service reports that the Bogus Basin got 16 inches of snow, “1.6 inches of water in one of the biggest dumps ever in Bogus Basin data,” said Abramovich. “It was caused by a rare low-pressure system spinning over the Treasure Valley from Bogus Basin to Sugar Butte.”

Early reports from the NRCS last winter warned of water shortages late in the season. “We were questioning whether we would fill the reservoirs earlier this year, but the rain and cool temperatures should fill the system,” added Abramovich. “Once you fill the system it changes water rights and with the carry-over from last year; so it’s all good news in terms of water supply.”

Monday, May 24, 2010

2010 Wheat crop

Wheat Planting up

Boise--Idaho’s 2010 winter wheat production is forecast at 62.9 million bushels, 11 percent higher than last year, and 5 percent above the 2008 crop. Based on May 1 conditions, yield is estimated at 85.0 bushels per acre, up 4 bushels from last year. Acres expected to be harvested are set at 740,000 acres, an increase of 40,000 acres from 2009.

Nationally, winter wheat production is forecast at 1.46 billion bushels, down 4 percent from 2009. Based on May 1 conditions, the United States yield is forecast at 45.9 bushels per acre, up 1.7 bushels from the previous year. Expected grain area totals 31.8 million acres, down 8 percent from last year.

As of May 2, sixty-eight percent of the United States winter wheat crop was rated in good to excellent condition, 21 points above the same week in 2009, and heading had reached 27 percent in the 18 major producing states, 4 percentage points behind the 5-year average, Hard Red Winter, at 960 million bushels, is up 5 percent from 2009. Soft Red Winter, at 283 million bushels, is down 30 percent from last year. White Winter is up 7 percent from last year and now totals 215 million bushels. Of this total, 17.0 million bushels are Hard White and 198 million bushels are Soft White.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Farm Safety from Kubota


Know your tractor, its implements and how they work.Please read and understand the Operator's Manual(s) before operating the equipment. Also, keep your equipment in good condition.

Use ROPS and seat belt whenever and wherever applicable. If your tractor has a foldable ROPS, fold it down only when absolutely necessary and fold it up and lock it again as soon as possible. Do not wear the seat belt when the ROPS is folded. Most tractor fatalities are caused by overturns.*

Be familiar with your terrain and work area - walk the area first to be sure and drive safely. Use special caution on slopes, slow down for all turns and stay off the highway whenever possible.

Never start an engine in a closed shed or garage. Exhaust gas contains carbon monoxide, which is colorless, odorless - and deadly.

Always keep your PTO properly shielded. Make it a habit to walk around your tractor and PTO driven implement - never over, through or between the tractor and implement, particularly if either is running. The PTO rotates with enough speed and strength to kill you.

Keep your hitches low and always on the drawbar. Otherwise, your tractor might flip over backwards.

Never get off a moving tractor or leave it with its engine running. Shut it down before leaving the seat. A runaway tractor can be extremely dangerous.

Never refuel while the engine is running or hot. Additionally, do not add coolant to the radiator while the engine is hot; hot coolant can erupt and scald.

Keep all children off and away from your tractor and its implements at all times. Children are generally attracted to tractors and the work they do. However, a tractor's work is not child's play. Remember, a child's disappointment is fleeting, while your memory of his or her injury or death resulting from riding the tractor with you, or being too close, will last a lifetime.

Never be in a hurry or take chances about anything you do with your tractor. Think safety first, then take your time and do it right.

Note:Kubota Tractor Corporation strongly recommends the use of ROPS and seat belts in almost all applications

Saturday, May 22, 2010

You'll find just about everything in the Culiacan, Mexico public market, except potatoes-- Jake Putnam photo
Simpson Pushes for Greater Market Access for Idaho Potatoes

Washington, D.C. - Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson joined colleagues in sending a letter to Mexican President Felipe Calderon Hinojosa encouraging him to loosen trade restrictions on U.S. potatoes. Calderon is currently visiting Washington, DC, and the letter was hand-delivered today during a meeting with lawmakers.

“Giving U.S. potato growers full access to the market in Mexico would have a dramatically positive impact on the Idaho potato industry,” said Simpson. “I am hopeful that President Calderon will recognize that reducing trade barriers would prove beneficial to both of our countries.”

Mexico currently limits shipments of U.S. potatoes to areas within 26 kilometers of the border. The Mexican government claims that these restrictions are necessary to ensure that pests from U.S. potatoes are not spread to Mexican crops, but U.S. potato producers exporting to Mexico are subject to the same requirements to manage risks of diseases and pests as domestic producers who ship their products throughout Mexico. The letter calls on the Mexican government to provide the same treatment for U.S. potato imports that domestic potatoes get.

“The supplies of fresh potatoes produced domestically in Mexico are not adequate in quantity to meet the needs of Mexican consumers and processors on a year round basis,” the letter reads.
“Access to high quality U.S. fresh potatoes at prices which are lower than domestically produced potatoes will improve the well being of Mexican consumers and the productivity of Mexican potato processors…Treating U.S. potato imports in a similar manner as potatoes produced in Mexico would be good for Mexican consumers and would encourage the mutually beneficial trade relationship we both seek.”

Friday, May 21, 2010

Clean Air Act

Near Burley, Jake Putnam photo
Farm Groups Urge Senate to Disapprove EPA GHG Regulation
Washington--The American Farm Bureau Federation and 48 other farm groups have joined together in urging the Senate to adopt a resolution that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act without prior congressional approval.

AFBF President Bob Stallman said virtually all of American agriculture is united in the belief that regulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases should be decided by Congress and not from a federal regulatory agency.

“Farm Bureau has said all along that the Clean Air Act is not the place to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA’s scheme will lead to increased input costs and costly regulations for farmers and ranchers. Passage of a disapproval resolution by Congress is the best way to ensure that national policy is set by policymakers accountable to the people and not by unelected bureaucrats at EPA.”

The Senate is expected to vote soon on the resolution introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that will effectively veto the EPA’s scheme to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as pollutants.

In a letter sent to members of the Senate on Tuesday, the broad coalition of agricultural groups, representing crop and livestock producers and allied industries, explained that without relief from Congress, agriculture could suffer severe economic impacts from the EPA’s plan to regulate stationary sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

Regulation of stationary sources of greenhouse gas emissions will begin on Jan. 2, 2011, when these sources will be affected through such programs as Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Title V operating permits, according to the coalition’s letter.

While EPA has indicated it will start regulating larger emitters in excess of 50,000 tons annually, it does not have the discretion not to regulate smaller emitters. Only Congress can address that question, and existing provisions of the Clean Air Act put these levels at 100 and 250 tons of emissions annually, according to the agricultural groups. The letter states that according to EPA’s own estimates, full implementation “would cost farmers (more than) $866 million” just to obtain Title V operating permits for their farms and livestock operations.

The groups warned that farmers and ranchers will likely incur increased input costs because of the regulatory impacts and agricultural producers will eventually be directly regulated.

Conservation Stewardship

Near Challis--John Thompson photo

BOISE– The Natural Resources Conservation Service wants to reward good agriculture land stewards; the Conservation Stewardship Program offers monetary incentives to encourage producers to maintain existing and take on new conservation practices. Producers must sign up before June 11, 2010 to qualify for 2010 funds.

“This program acknowledges producers that are good land stewards,” said Clint Evans, Assistant State Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Boise, Idaho. “The application process is a bit time consuming up front, but we think the benefit to producers is worth the effort.”

The application process evaluates an agricultural operation’s conservation activities. The program pays producers to continue with conservation practices that treat issues such as soil erosion or water quality. Adding extra conservation activities can increase your payments.

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) offers two payment types: an annual payment to continue existing conservation practices and adopt new ones and a supplemental payment for adopting resource conserving crop rotations. The per acre payments range from $12 to $22 for cropland, $7 to $14 for pasture, $5 to $10 for rangeland, and $6 to $12 for forestland. A supplemental payment, available only for cropland, adds an additional $12 to $16 for the resource conservation crop rotation.

Last year, Idaho received 91 applications covering 106,158 acres of agricultural land and 10 applications for 6,917 acres of nonindustrial private forestland. “We’re hoping we can get more agriculture and forestry producers signed up in 2010,” Evans added.

Take the first step in the application process and complete the online self-screening checklist to see if the Conservation Stewardship Program is right for you; go to

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Economic News

Stocks Slide Again

New York--The stock market continued to slide this morning after disappointing employment numbers affected investors' cynical view of the world economy.

The Dow fell 200 points this morning while interest rates fell in the Treasury market. The euro fell to a four-year low; that could affect european consumer confidence. The Labor Department says unemployment benefits rose by 25,000 to 471,000, the biggest leap in three months.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Idaho Ag News

Jake Putnam photo
2010 Bean seed Crop
Homedale--Bean seed planting is underway at Pat Takasugi's farm in Homedale, Idaho. Takasugi and wife Suzanne farm 1000 acres in Canyon County. He says bean planting is seven days behind schedule because of cool wet temperatures.

Monday, May 17, 2010

U of I Extension News

E. coli 0157:H7
Research Suggests Strategy to Prevent Deadly E coli in Cattle

MOSCOW – Scientists, including the University of Idaho's Carolyn Hovde Bohach, Monday reported they have learned how deadly E. coli bacteria sense the cattle gastrointestinal tract.The work may provide "an exciting alternative to diminish contamination of meat products and cross-contamination of produce crops because of cattle shedding this human pathogen," the scientists reported in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research focused on E coli O157:H7, a serotype of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, which can cause fatal illness when transmitted to people through produce or undercooked meat.An estimated 70 to 80 percent of healthy cattle herds in the United States at least sometimes carry the deadly E. coli with no ill effects, passing it to each other through their environment or by direct contact with each other.E. coli from the farm environment, presumably in feed or water, is ingested by cattle and passes through the rumen, the first and largest compartment in their four-part stomach along the GI tract until it reaches the rectoanal junction mucosa where it attaches and colonizes.

To be successful, E. coli must express or turn on different genes in different conditions such as outside of the animal, in the rumen, or at the end of the GI tract. This publication shows, for the first time, how E. coli O157:H7 uses chemical signaling to sense its environment and turn on different genes when it is in cattle, Hovde Bohach said.

Through a process known as quorum sensing, the bacterium senses and responds to chemicals known as AHLs or acyl-homserine lactones. The presence of AHL activates genes that help E coli colonize cattles' GI tract.Disrupting that signal may prevent the deadly E. coli from taking up residence in cattle. Human health researchers are studying whether disrupting quorum sensing in another bacterium, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, can prevent fatal infections in cystic fibrosis patients.

The main threat for people occurs from cattle shedding the bacteria in feces, which can then contaminate meat or produce.The cattle work was conducted on the University of Idaho campus, where Hovde Bohach's laboratory has developed expertise in working with the bacteria in its natural silent reservoir, cattle.There may be several strategies to stop E. coli from living in cattle, she said, adding, "We might try to limit production of AHLs or find a feed additive that would block bacterial reception of the AHL signal."

Her research includes a focus on the influence of cattle diet on shedding the bacteria and where the bacteria are found within cattle.Vanessa Sperandio and David T. Hughes of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center reported the team's findings in the Proceedings of the Academy of Sciences. Other authors included Linda Liou of Hovde Bohach's lab at the University of Idaho, Jason W. Sahl and David A. Rasko of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Arati V. Patankar and Juan E. Gonzalez of the University of Texas at Dallas; Thomas S. Edrington of the USDA Agricultural Research Service.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Farm Economy News

Gas Prices Still Up

BOISE - Idaho Farmers are dealing with gasoline prices that are more than 20 cents higher than the national average. Analysts blame the cost difference on low production levels at Salt Lake City refineries, almost all of southern Idaho's oil supply comes through Salt Lake.

Gas futures dropped more than 22 cents earlier this month, down to $2.40 a gallon. The Futures are an indicator of wholesale prices one month out. Some insiders think that after memorial day we could see a significant drop, and that's good news for farmers that are coping with rising input costs.

The AAA isn't so optimistic, they point out that transportation and taxes to ship the fuel to Southern Idaho will run about 40 cents per gallon, according to Dave Carlson, AAA spokesman, he thinks its too soon to assume prices will drop to $2.80 by the end of the month."It's presumptuous to say they're going down."

As of Thursday, the average price for a gallon of regular-grade gasoline in was $3.11. But the price drop is starting to filter down to motorists, but should take several weeks to show up at the pump, which is $2.90 nationwide.

State Resolutions Meeting

Steve Ritter photo
State Resolutions Committee Meets in Boise
Boise--The annual State resolution meeting met in Boise on Thursday with potential resolutions from Idaho Farm Bureau's five districts.

"This is how the policy book is written," said Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley. "It's a process that gives our members a voice in grass root politics."

Issues of statewide and national importance are fleshed out and then discussed by counties over the summer followed by the final State resolution meeting in the fall and the annual meeting in December. Recommendations on national issues are adopted and forwarded to the American Farm Bureau Federation for consideration.

This morning in Eagle

Steve Ritter photo
by Steve Ritter

Eagle--In north Ada County, the first hay cutting is underway. The stand looks a little thin but given the cool temperatures we have been experiencing the site of the swather is a sure sign we have finally hit spring growing season.

This could be a big year for hay production according the USDA, Idaho's May 1 hay stocks totaled 775,000 tons, up 72 percent from May 1, 2009; while hay production during 2009 was down 1 percent from the previous year.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Just in from Washington

Report Reaction: A Better Year for Livestock Producers
WASHINGTON, D.C., May 11, 2010 – Following two years of tough economic times for livestock producers, 2010 is shaping up to be a much better year thanks to an improving economy and tighter supplies of beef, pork and poultry.

“Livestock producers have seen a return to profitability in the past two months after going through probably the worst economic situation anyone can remember in 2008 and 2009,” said John Anderson, livestock economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation. “This is certainly good news for livestock producers because it provides a good opportunity to rebuild equity.”

The Agriculture Department released its initial assessment of the U.S. and world crop and livestock supply and demand estimates today. USDA also released its first calendar-year 2011 projections of U.S. livestock, poultry and dairy products.

USDA expects total meat production to be down in 2010, compared to 2009. USDA forecasts a 2 percent increase in broiler production this year, but a 1 percent drop in beef production. USDA estimates a 3.5 percent drop in pork production this year.

“Pork producers were the hardest hit during the economic decline in 2008-2009, and the big drop in production this year is evidence of that,” Anderson said.

Total U.S. meat production for 2011 is projected to be slightly higher than 2010, as increased pork and poultry production more than offsets a decline in beef production, according to USDA. Beef production for 2011 is forecast to decline due to tighter supplies of cattle.

“The reason USDA is showing a decline in beef production is that it takes a cattle producer at least two years from making the decision to increase herd size to having cattle ready for market,” Anderson said. “Poultry producers can turn things around pretty quickly, while the lag time for pork producers isn’t quite as long as it is for beef producers.”

Anderson said the forecasts for increased meat production in 2011 is a positive sign that shows livestock producers are optimistic enough to increase their herd sizes, following two years of reducing herd sizes.

“Meat and poultry producers have just come through a two-year period during which they consistently lost money,” Anderson said. “Beginning in late-2008, weak demand both here at home, as well as in the export markets, drove product prices down. Producers are now finally able to take advantage of higher prices.”

An improving demand picture is also welcome news for livestock producers.
“Evidence for improving demand has been mounting in recent weeks,” Anderson said. “Department of Commerce data shows consumer spending at food service and accommodations facilities grew at a remarkable 8 percent rate (quarter over quarter) in the first quarter of 2010. This was the first quarter-over-quarter increase since the second quarter of 2008. The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index for March indicated that the restaurant industry entered an expansionary phase for the first time in 29 months.”

As for USDA’s May crop report, Anderson said the forecasts of larger U.S. and global grain stocks is the big news.

“The increase in stock levels is due to forecasts for good crop production in 2010 and strong world competition,” Anderson said. “However, USDA’s corn stocks projection fell below many forecasts due in part to better export demand.”

Demand for corn and other coarse grains is strong, but production levels are still high. According to Anderson, the corn crop is off to a good start this year. Planting is 81 percent complete, the fastest on record, which gives producers a better chance at achieving good yields, he said.

Monday, May 10, 2010

University of Idaho Ag Extension News

Parma Prepares for Another Research SeasonWith a Growing Base of Financial Support

PARMA – Spring work is proceeding at the University of Idaho's Parma Research and Extension Center as field hands wrap up planting potatoes and sugarbeets and preparing fields for later plantings of corn and other crops."Right now, we're right in the middle of things," said Mike Thornton, Parma R&E Center superintendent.

The center is in its first year of implementing a new five-year research agreement announced in December with the J.R. Simplot Co.The company's support is the largest single new source of funding for the center this growing season. Another five-year agreement with fruit growers provides another $250,000 of support for orchard and vineyard research.

The J.R. Simplot Co. will conduct research on about 13 acres of the 100 acres of cropland this spring in cooperation with university researchers, Thornton said. University crews will also help the company conduct research on about 2 acres of its Arena Valley site.

Last May, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences was preparing to shut down field operations at the center in response to legislative budget reductions unless other support could be found to offset the losses.Political and community support for the center's continued operations helped generate financial support that has the center on firmer footing as this year's growing season advances.

The J.R. Simplot Co. was the first to step forward, reaching a five-year, $1.5 million agreement with the university to support its research at the center and general center operations.The Treasure Valley Agricultural Coalition, a group representing some of the center's staunchest allies, also contributed $65,000 to fund center operations through this year."The Treasure Valley Agricultural Coalition's support for the center is essential to its ability to serve the agricultural industry. The support also demonstrates the community's commitment to maintaining a valuable asset," said Rich Garber, governmental relations director for the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

Garber serves as co-chairman of an advisory committee established with the Treasure Valley Agricultural Coalition. Jon Watson, who owns an onion packing business at Parma that has been family operated for four generations, serves as the committee's chairman.The Treasure Valley Agricultural Coalition is working toward contributing another $65,000, Watson said, for an overall commitment of $130,000 for two years to support center operations through 2011.

"We're encouraged by the ability to continue a historic partnership and maintain a valuable research enterprise that is important to agriculture in the Treasure Valley and the state's economy," Watson said.The Parma Research and Extension Center is part of a statewide network operated by the Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station.

Donn Thill, a University of Idaho professor of weed science and the station's assistant director, said the private support is a vital part of the center's overall operating budget.State funding contributes more than half of the center's $1.2 million operating budget by supporting six faculty researchers who work at Parma. Grants, gifts and contracts contribute most of the remaining funds.

"State support remains an important part of the budget and ensures that we have the personnel who are the reason we operate the Parma Research and Extension Center in the first place," Thill said."In the current financial climate, however, the state and university alone cannot continue to operate research programs in the same way we did in the past," Thill added, "which makes private support and partnerships essential."

In addition to the agreements with the Simplot Co., fruit industry and Treasure Valley Agricultural Coalition, the center's researchers received two-year specialty crop grants through the Idaho State Department of Agriculture this year totaling about $330,000 to support three projects to study:

· Sustainable production methods for new potato varieties

· Establish two new orchards for new apple variety trials

· Test new table grape varieties and improve fruit quality

The challenge for the Parma Research and Extension Center and others in the university's system will be to ensure that financial support continues and allows for researches to operate sustainable programs, Thill said.

Just in from Washington

AFBF: Congress Should Stop Dragging its Feet on Free Trade
WASHINGTON– American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman today called for Congress to stop dragging its feet and pass the Colombia, Panama and South Korea free trade agreements. In a press conference with other agriculture groups, Stallman said Congress’ inaction on the FTAs is costing U.S. agriculture lost market share and competitiveness.

“We are seeing all around us FTAs being negotiated or already negotiated by our competitors, increasing their export potential and putting the U.S. at a disadvantage,” said Stallman. “The three FTAs combined, which are stalled in Congress, represent almost $2.5 billion in additional exports.”

Because the FTAs have not been implemented, Colombia, Panama and South Korea are moving forward on trade deals with U.S. competitors. Panama has just completed an agreement with Canada and South Korea has completed negotiations with the European Union and is currently negotiating with Canada.

In Colombia, where the U.S. was once the top agriculture exporter, market share is being taken over by other countries. Between 2008-2009, there was almost a 50 percent drop in U.S. exports. This year, Agriculture Department export data shows that U.S. exports between January and February are 11 percent less than the same time period last year.

“For agriculture, Congress’ inaction on these agreements is no longer about the potential gains, but now about preventing losing what we already have,” said Stallman. “These losses are not just about dollar amounts, but the negative impact they will have on our farmers and rural communities.”

Stallman also said that jobs beyond rural America are at stake, from processors and packers to transportation workers and longshoremen. The USDA estimates that 9,000 U.S. jobs are supported with every billion dollars in exports.

Farm Safety

John Deere supports Farm Safety 4 Just Kids

Urbandale, Iowa- Deere and Company made a generous contribution to Farm Safety 4 Just Kids. Founded in 1837, Deere and Company manufactures agricultural, forestry, and construction equipment in addition to John Deere Credit, one of the largest equipment finance companies in the world. Deere and Company made a platinum donation between $50,000 and $99,999.

“Deere and Company’s generous donation supporting Farm Safety 4 Just Kids really speaks to their core values of integrity, quality, commitment, and innovation,” said Dave Schweitz, executive director of Farm Safety 4 Just Kids. “Thanks to Deere and Company we will be able to continue keeping our rural youth safe.”

Farm Safety 4 Just Kids was created in 1987 by Marilyn Adams after the death of her 11-year-old son. The organization works to raise awareness about the health and safety hazards that are an inherent part of the rural environment in which children live, work, and play. Over 130 chapters in the United States and Canda conduct safety and health programs within their communities.

Thanks to the support of agri-business sponsors like Deere and Company, Farm Safety 4 Just Kids is able to provide their volunteers with up to date and pertinent safety education and demonstration resources.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Just in from Washington

Senate climate change bill possible by June
Washington--With a promise from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to allow energy and climate change legislation to be brought to the floor in the coming months, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) are intensifying their efforts to build a consensus among fellow lawmakers, as well as the industries that would be affected by the greenhouse gas emissions caps and other proposals the trio is making. Among those with a seat at the discussion table are farmers and ranchers.

“We appreciate the outreach and the opportunity to again lay out our concerns,” said Rick Krause, American Farm Bureau Federation climate change specialist. “It’s a dialogue we plan on keeping up.” However, Krause cautioned, regardless of the provisions benefiting agriculture that may be included in the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman climate change bill, fees on motor fuels and emissions caps on the utility and manufacturing sectors—all of which are being considered —will put a squeeze on farmers and ranchers by driving up fuel, fertilizer and energy costs.

In addition, Kerry, Graham and Lieberman are proposing making carbon a commodity, one that could be more profitable than crops or livestock. “Legislation that puts a price on carbon so it can be bought and sold will likely compel some landowners to turn their crop fields and grazing lands into forests,” Krause explained. To broaden support for their bill, the senators are considering tempering the climate change provisions with provisions dedicated to boosting renewable fuels and promoting nuclear power and offshore oil and gas drilling.

However, a number of their colleagues from coastal states such as Florida, New Jersey and Maryland have already raised a red flag signaling they would not support a bill that would open their coastal waters to drilling.

For Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), it’s Kerry, Graham and Lieberman’s carbon trading approach that’s a problem. The pair is offering an alternative they call “cap-and-dividend.” Under their bill, carbon emissions allowances would be auctioned off to fossil fuel industries with most of the revenue going back to consumers to help defray higher energy costs.

Cantwell and Collins said their proposal is as likely to pass the Senate as the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman bill, which Kerry said will be released after Congress returns from its two-week recess the week of April 12. Lieberman said the bill will likely be considered in June, after the Senate debates financial regulatory reform. “There are obviously still many unknowns, including exactly what the bill will look like and what it will cost farmers, ranchers and all Americans,” Krause said.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sugar Beet Season

Steve Ritter photo
2010 Beet Season looks strong, Despite Uncertain Future
San Francisco—Sugarbeet Farmers across the nation planted their crop of roundup-ready beets this year, after a key ruling in California Federal Court in March. The season was in serious doubt until an 11th hour court ruling saved the day March 18th.

Idaho's sugar beet acreage this year will rise an estimated 3 percent to 169,000, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Last year, state farmers planted 164,000 acres which adds up to more than 5.5 million pounds of beets depending on yield, according to the Idaho Beet Growers Association in Boise.

Judge Jeffrey White of Nothern California’s U.S. District Court ruled against a temporary injunction filed by organic farmers and environmental food safety groups. The groups wanted an injunction until a new, more involved environmental impact statement could be completed by the USDA. White’s ruling allowed farmers to plant; at least for the 2010 season.

“We were pleased with the preliminary injunction,” said Mark Duffin of the Idaho Sugar Beet Growers Association. “There’s been strong demand for acres this year, I haven’t seen a final contracting number yet, but we should even be up a little bit over last year.”
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. "This ruling provides clarity for Roundup Ready sugarbeets in 2010," said Steve Welker, Monsanto Company's sugarbeet business manager.

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

Beet producer Mike Garner of Raft River thinks growers ultimately will prevail. "We have a real good case, 95 percent of the industry switched to Roundup, had the injunction been successful it would have been catastrophic, food prices would skyrocket. I don’t think anyone is comfortable with that, nor wants it."

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, the ban could have impacted half the nation’s sugar supply with an economic loss of more than $1.5 billion.

Despite ruling in favor of farmers, White did warn farmers about 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.

The Idaho Sugar Beet Growers Association says they’re taking heed. “We’ll have the hearing in July on the remedy phase, but now all I can say is that case preparations are underway. Judge White clearly said what his concerns were, we will have to address those concerns in the hearing,” said Duffin.

White added that until the U.S. D.A completed its court-ordered re-evaluation of the beets' environmental effects, Judge White suggested that companies and growers “take all efforts, going forward, to use conventional seed."

The United States Department of Agriculture did conduct environmental assessments of genetically engineered beets in 2005 But concluded there was no significant impact, so a more involved environmental impact statement was not needed.

But Judge White thinks pollen from the genetically engineered crops could spread to non-engineered beets eliminating a “farmer’s choice to grow non-genetically engineered crops, or a consumer’s choice to eat non-genetically engineered food” and that alone calls for a broad environmental impact statement.

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.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Just in from Washington

Simpson Pushes for Border Security on Public Lands
Washington, D.C. - Congressman Simpson expressed his concern about border security on land managed by the Department of the Interior along the southern border of the United States.

The recent death of Arizona rancher Robert Krentz, who was murdered by an illegal alien who entered the country through the San Bernardino Wildlife Refuge, has underscored the importance of border security on federal land. Simpson, who is Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment, sent a letter today to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar expressing his concern about this situation.

“Right now we have serious issues with drug and weapons trafficking across the southern border of the United States, which lead to crime problems in our own country and instability in Mexico, making it imperative we tackle the dangerous and growing problem of border security,” wrote Simpson. “Keeping drug dealers, human traffickers, and criminals, like the one who murdered Mr. Krentz, out of our country requires the cooperation of multiple federal agencies.”

Most of the federal lands along the southern border are under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and other agencies within the Department of Interior. Simpson expressed concern over past reports that bureaucratic hurdles and agency regulations have made it difficult for the Border Patrol to carry out its mission, and he questioned Salazar about how these agencies are coordinating with the Department of Homeland Security to address border security issues.

“I have been concerned by past reports that bureaucratic hurdles and agency regulations have made it difficult for the Border Patrol to monitor the border and pursue those who have entered this country illegally,” wrote Simpson. “I look forward to learning more about the Department’s efforts to secure the borders over which they have jurisdiction.”

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Just in from Washington

Farm Income Expected to Increase, While Net Worth Declines in 2010

Washington--The three key indicators of U.S. farm sector income are expected to improve in 2010, according to the United State Department of Agriculture statisticians. Net value added, net farm income, and net cash income, are expected to improve in 2010. Net farm income is forecast to be $63 billion in 2010, up 11.9 percent from 2009.

While the 2010 forecast is $25 billion below the all-time record in 2004 and near record in 2008, it represents a rebound from 2009 when the global recession dampened demand for U.S. crops and livestock. Net value added, USDA’s measure of agriculture’s contribution to the U.S. economy’s production of goods and services, is forecast to rise $6.1 billion and net cash income $5.5 billion.

Adjusting for inflation provides a better way to compare the current health of the U.S. farm sector to longrun trends. While increases are expected in 2010, each of the three farm income measures remain below the most recent 10-year average (measured in constant 2005 dollars). Inflation-adjusted net value added is expected to be roughly 6.4 percent below its 2000-2009 average. Inflation-adjusted net farm income and net cash income will be below the 10-year averages by 13.4 and 7.1 percent, respectively.

The value of farm sector business assets is expected to continue falling in 2010 as expectations for declining crop receipts and continued volatility in agricultural commodity and input markets affect future expected returns on investments in land and other farm capital. Although interest rates are expected to remain low and farm credit available, producers could face tighter credit requirements. Farm sector equity, or “net worth” (farm sector assets minus farm sector debt), is expected to fall 3 percent in 2010, with the value of farm assets declining 3.5 percent and farm debt 6.8 percent.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

County Farm Bureau News

Steve Ritter photo
Caution: Farm Equipment Back on the Roads

Boise--The headlines each spring are disturbing and frequent: Car hits combine, motorist injured.

"There's just more congestion on the county roads," said Canyon County Farm Bureau Board member Sid Freeman. "We're seeing more impatient people taking risks; some don't realize how long it takes machinery to get from one field to the next. They end up putting themselves and others at risk by making bad decisions on the road."

Canyon County and Ada County Farm Bureaus each year produce public service announcements for the Treasure Valley airwaves that urge motorists to look out for farm machinery on country roads.
Ada County's rural accidents are more commonplace and that concerns Ada County Farm Bureau President Don Sonke. "We think this is a good idea and thought it was a project we'd like to get involved with," said Sonke. Freeman added that there were several near fatal accidents the past few summers in Canyon County that could have been prevented with farm equipment awareness.

"Every year we see the near misses in the headlines; it boils down to this and one fatal accident is too many," said Freeman. "It’s just a matter of time before someone gets killed and that's unacceptable.

"Sonke says that developers in Ada County are chopping up subdivisions bringing more high speed traffic to county roads bringing and that means more accidents. "Drivers don't expect to see farm equipment anymore because they're miles from the city limit, they simply don't know what to do." he said.

Freeman adds that farmers are using bigger equipment, that’s a recent change farm trends, "It's to save money, fewer passes through a field, that burns less diesel and takes less time, it comes back to staying profitable and staying on the farm, unfortunately we take up a lot more roadway that we used to and drivers aren’t use to that.

"Some farmers have been seen in Canyon County using pilot cars when moving equipment at night to prevent accidents because as the rural population grows, speed limits and traffic increases while patience wears thin.

The Farm Bureaus started production on the Public Service Announcements in early April, and should hit the airwaves upon completion.

Ada and Canyon County Farm Bureaus say the PSA's center on basic rural safety tips:

Left-turn collision Defensive driving tips: -Is it really turning? Don't assume a farm vehicle that pulls to the right side of the road is going to turn right, or is letting you pass. Check the operator's hand signals. - Is there a turn signal? A flashing light on a tractor that suddenly stops flashing is a turn signal. Slow down when you see this signal. -Where could it turn? Check the left side of the road for gates, driveways, or any place a farm vehicle might turn.

Rear-end collision Defensive driving tips: -Be alert. Always watch for farm vehicles on rural roads, especially at planting and harvest. -Slow down immediately. As soon as you see a slow-moving vehicle, start to apply brakes like you would when approaching a stoplight. -Keep your distance. Stay a safe distance behind farm vehicles. Most farm equipment is not designed to travel at speeds greater than 25 miles an hour. Even when towed behind a truck, equipment such as sprayers and fuel tanks often travels less than 25 miles an hour.

Passing collision Defensive driving tips: Be patient. Don't assume the farmer can move aside to let you pass. Shoulders may be soft, wet, or steep, which can cause the farm vehicle to tip, or they may not be able to support a heavy farm vehicle. -Make sure you're clear. When passing, make sure you can see the farm vehicle in your rear-view mirror before you get back in your lane. -Enjoy the drive. Even if you have to slow down to 20 miles an hour and follow a tractor for two miles, it takes only six minutes of your time, about the same as waiting for two stoplights.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Horseshoeing season underway

Steve Ritter photo
Johnnie Martin: Have Horse will Travel

Emmett--Springtime is the busy season for farriers, horseshoer Johnnie Martin is in demand and on a good day he’ll travel a three-hundred mile loop shoeing horses from Boise to Riggins.

“I think I have an advantage because I grew up around horses and I train horses as well; I’m not just a horseshoer, I relate with the horse. I know how they are going to react. I know when they are going to throw a fit, where I need to be, but I usually get a long pretty well with them.
Martin says skittish horses are his specialty, the 20-something farrier has a calmness that he brings to work each day. “I can get by a lot of horses that people have problems with, how to be quiet, go around them, get the job done, make things simple non stressful and that’s the way it has to be.”

With all the moisture this spring one of the things Martin says to look out for is thrush. Thrush is a degenerative hoof condition that develops when too much muck and bacteria invade the sole of the hoof. Martin says the moist environment; unhygienic stable conditions and bad hoof-care lead to thrush, with symptoms including a foul smelling, black discharge in the frog and a soft and crumbly bottom of the hoof. In advanced stages, the condition can cause lameness.

Johnnie Martin says he’s working sun-up to sun down seven days a week. “Average for me is 4-5 head a day, there’s a few days there above average. I have a client in Riggins and he has a bunch of pack horses and the most I’ve done from daylight to dark is 18 head, and that’s a day of work. I go all over the Treasure Valley, Eagle, McCall, Horseshoe Bend, Emmett, Sweet, Donnelly, it’s a pretty big loop.”

Martin says these days his arms are sore and he’s tired but its work that he loves, and when you love your work, it doesn’t seem like work.

Steve Ritter photo

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Just in from the American Farm Bureau

AFBF Backs House Bills Extending Renewable Energy Tax Credits
Washington-Tax incentives play a key role in the development and production of renewable energy, and the American Farm Bureau Federation is urging Congress to pass two bills that would extend renewable fuel tax credits for five years.

In a statement presented for the record to a House Ways and Means Committee hearing this week on energy tax incentives, AFBF said long-term tax incentives are needed to boost renewable energy technologies and support development of the market infrastructure necessary to make these technologies more competitive.

AFBF supports H.R. 4070, introduced by Reps. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.), which would extend the biodiesel tax incentive for five years. In addition, the legislation would change the biodiesel tax incentive from a blenders excise tax credit to a production excise tax credit. This change will improve administration of the nation’s tax laws and protect the integrity of the credit, according to AFBF.

AFBF also backs H.R. 4940, the Renewable Fuels Reinvestment Act, introduced by Reps. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.), that extends the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit and the Small Ethanol Producers Tax Credit for five years through 2015. The bill also extends the Cellulosic Ethanol Production Tax Credit for three years, through 2015 and the secondary tariff on ethanol that offsets the benefit received by imported ethanol.

“Clean and renewable domestic energy will help America achieve long-term economic growth, create a cleaner environment and shield our energy supply from unreliable foreign sources,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “Renewable fuels are vital for rural America. They create much needed jobs and open new markets for farmers and ranchers. Tax incentives play a key role in the development and production of renewable energy.”

House Passes Interior Bill with Idaho Priorities

Simpson authored provisions would benefit Idaho and the West Washington,- The House of Representatives passed the fiscal year 2019 Inter...