Thursday, September 30, 2010

U of I Students attend Precision Ag Day

Kendrick--In cooperation with the University of Idaho,

PineCreek Precision hosted an Agricultural Field Day on Tuesday at the Robert Blair farm outside of Kendrick, Idaho.

Blair knows what he is talking about having been named Precision Farmer of the Year in 2009. Blair gave the attentive students a PowerPoint presentation in the farm shop covering several topics including weed and insect control and herbicide resistant weeds through precision agriculture.

Blair owns PineCreek Precision, a company that specializes in all aspects of precision agriculture, he told the students that “to remain profitable in this day and age, farmers have to cut costs on the input side because 'there's very little control over the markets.'

Blair states that cutting input costs and keeping yields up can be done with satellite guidance systems and variable rate applicators. Using satellites to guide tractors can reduce overlap in field operations by 3 to 5 percent thus saving on fertilizer, seeds and chemicals and on the environment.

"Variable rate application technology can save fertilizer by applying more fertilizer in the productive areas of the field and eliminating wasted fertilizer in less productive areas of the field," said Blair. "Flow rates vary based on where the machine is in the field thus applying fertilizer and chemical where needed, not uniformly over the entire field. Shallow, lower yielding soils cannot utilize as much fertilizer as the deeper and higher yielding soils, so uniform fertilizer applications over an entire field can result in wasted product and crop damage."

Blair showed students that variable rate applicators can put chemicals where the weeds are. Since weeds tend to grow in patches, it makes sense to spray the patches and not the entire field.

Blair uses an unmanned aerial system (UAS) to analyze his fields. The UAS he uses is called the CropCam. A high resolution camera is mounted on what looks like a model airplane that has an 8-foot wingspan and 4-foot length. The plane is programmed to fly a pattern over the field and can cover about 640 acres in 25 minutes.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Garbanzo bean harvest, Kendrick, Idaho

Kendrick--Farmers here are still waiting for the right moisture content to harvest garbanzo beans. Dale Silflow wants to harvest his beans at 12-percent, but late Tuesday most of his fields were testing out at 13-percent. "Its been a crazy year, everything is late, the rains came late and stayed late, been farming since 1969 here and I haven't seen nothin like it," he said.

Tax cuts can wait?

Senate vote on tax cuts on hold until after election
Washington--Senate Democrats have decided to wait until after the November elections to vote on the estate tax and other expiring 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. “We will come back in November and stay in session as long as it takes to get this done,” said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said he does not expect the Senate to pass anything before Election Day except a continuing resolution to keep the government running into the new fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Just in from Washington

The Environmental Protection Agency, Washington D.C. -Jake Putnam photo
Lincoln Blasts ‘Burdensome, Costly’ EPA Regulations

Washington--Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) is calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to provide America’s farmers and ranchers certainty and stability, not additional burdensome and costly environmental regulations.

Lincoln’s comments came during a Thursday Senate Agriculture Committee oversight hearing to examine the impacts of EPA regulation on agriculture where EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson testified.

“At a time when every American feels anxious about his or her own economic future, our farmers, ranchers and foresters are facing at least 10 new regulatory requirements that will drive up their costs and make it more difficult to compete in the global marketplace. These regulations rely on dubious rationales and, as a consequence, will be of questionable benefit to the goal of conservation and environmental protection,” Lincoln said.

“Farmers face so many unknowns—the last thing they need is regulatory uncertainty. Our farmers, ranchers and foresters need clear, straightforward and predictable rules to live by that are not burdensome, duplicative, costly, unnecessary or in some cases just plain bizarre.”

Lincoln pointed toward EPA’s Clean Water Act permit requirements for pesticide applications as one example of an expensive and duplicative process that is creating unnecessary hurdles for farmers. She noted that farmers are not only struggling to meet these requirements, but are often left guessing on which requirements to meet.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Information Innovation

Farm Bureau iPhone App now available in Apple iTunes store

Boise--The Idaho Farm Bureau quietly went global over the weekend. If you have an iPhone and want to keep up with the latest Ag news, videos, and Farm Bureau happenings, there's an App for that.

"We were looking for the ultimate member benefit and wanted Idaho farmers to have the latest news, so we started looking into Applications last spring. We followed the research and PR trends and decided that we needed to be in the thick of the exploding App market," said Idaho Farm Bureau State Media Manager, Jake Putnam.

The iPhone has more than 104 million active App users, followed by BlackBerry with nearly 60 million users and just over 12 million using the Android smart phone. "It's quite obvious, we had to have a presence in the growing market."

Putnam points out that in overwhelming numbers, U.S. farmers keep in touch with the world from the cabs of combines and tractors. They don't have time to get caught up from the home PC so they're doing the bulk of their computing from smart phones. "We're the Voice of Idaho Agriculture and have to be where we're needed most, that's why we developed the iPhone App."

The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation News Application can be downloaded from Apple's I-Tune store, or from the iPhone App store that's included in all iPhone and iPod software programs.
"We looked at the studies and found that the typical iPhone user has 30 Apps on their phone, most of the Apps are news and information type applications, we want members to download our App and stay in touch with Idaho Agriculture issues, " said Putnam.

The Application is free, and came on line Saturday morning. "We're getting lots of downloads and the word's not out yet," said Putnam.

This isn't the first foray into social media for the farm organization. The IFBF was the first Farm Bureau on Facebook more than two years ago, they have their own YouTube Channel, photo site on Flickr, Tweets on Twitter, and this blog on Blogger.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Just in from Washington

Baucus Bill to Address Estate Tax

Washington--Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) plans to introduce legislation that would address the estate tax issue and extend the expiring 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for all but the highest tax brackets.

However, there is doubt Congress will consider the bill prior to the November election. “We're ready, but we have a lot to do,” Baucus said. “I just don't know [about a vote before the election]. People want to leave town by the end of next week so [we have to see] what else we can fit in.”

The bill is expected to include an altered version of the estate tax. Both Republicans and Democrats want a lower estate tax rate and a higher exemption. President Barack Obama wants to revive the 2009 structure with a 45 percent tax rate and a $3.5 million exemption.

The American Farm Bureau Federation continues to back a bill by Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) that would raise the exemption to $5 million and lower the top rate to 35 percent.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sugar Beet Update

Beet dump near Parma, Idaho
Interim Sugar Beet Plantings Considered

Washington--The United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service continues to look for temporary measures to allow farmers to continue the production of biotech sugar beets in 2011.

But opposition groups like the Center for Food Safety and Sierra Club have filed yet another round of lawsuits to stop the interim plan.

At issue in the lawsuits is the use of sugar beets that are modified to resist glyphosate using Monsanto’s Roundup. Opponents of Roundup fear that GMO beets will produce a new generation of super-weeds that will resist all herbicide treatment.

Among the temporary measures under consideration right now is a partial deregulation. If approved by the USDA in the coming weeks, Roundup Ready sugar beets could be approved for use by farmers before planting time next year.

But just hours after the USDA’s interim plan; opposition groups filed another lawsuit for the decision to allow limited planting of Roundup ready beets in 2011.

According to the latest complaint, the USDA's decision violates the August court ruling that prohibited future plantings of genetically modified sugar beets. In the September 8th announcement, the USDA proposed issuing permits for seed producers to start plantings of beet seed but not allowing the seed crop to flower.

The Center for Food Safety argued that any planting of Roundup Ready beets could still contaminate neighboring crops. Their latest complaint again asks the court to forbid the planting of any genetically modified sugar beets.

This latest round of lawsuits started August 13th when the U.S. District Court for Northern California ruled that biotech sugar beets, modified to resist the herbicide glyphosate, cannot be planted until USDA completes an Environmental Impact Statement.

Under that ruling, this year’s crop which is 95- percent RoundUp Ready can be harvested, sold and processed but the court ruled that biotech sugar beets cannot be sold in 2011.

Meanwhile sugar prices continue to rise because of nervous speculators; no one knows how much conventional seed is out there for planting in 2011. But insiders say the supply is far short of the 1.2 million acres of sugar beets grown in 10 states. The uncertainty means higher prices despite a bumper beet harvest.

Prices right now for bulk sugar deliveries in the fourth quarter are now $54 per ton, up $2 per ton this month. Bulk prices for industrial use in 2011 range from $48 to $49 per ton, well above the $40 per ton mark forecast earlier this year. Market analysts predict raw sugar prices to remain above 30 cents per lb. for the next 12 to 18 months.

The U.S. domestic sugar futures contract closed Sept 20th at 39 cents per pound, that’s a record high. The contract nearly doubles the November 2010 contract that started trading nearly two years ago. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. average retail sugar price in August was 60.4 cents per lb. which is up from 55.6 cents a year ago.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

State Resolutions Meeting

Steve Ritter photo

State Resolutions Committee Meeting in Boise
Boise--The State Resolutions Committee is holding is annual meeting at the Washington Street office across the street from the Idaho Statehouse. Delegates from all five Idaho Districts made the trip, for the next few hours they will discuss all the issues that passed county muster, issues on everything from wolves and endangered species to tax issues.

Idaho Onion Harvest

Freeman Farms near Middleton, Photo and interview by Steve Ritter

12 Questions for Farmer Sid Freeman

Middleton--Sid Freeman raises a variety of crops, every thing from beets, spuds to beans and onions, on this day the dust is flying and tractors are running up down the fields and Freeman is grinning from ear to ear because markets look so good.

So what is it today?
We're loading onions, yellow onions.

So where is this crop of onions headed?
My onions are headed to Partners Produce where they'll end up in frozen bags of mixed vegetables and few will end up in Costco.

So how did you prepare for this day?
We topped these onions and set them up in wind rows, that machine there will load the onions onto the trucks. It loads two windrows at a time and then hauls them over to the packing shed from there they’ll load the trucks and pack them out.

How much per acre to grow these onions?
It costs us about $1600 per acre to grow them, get them in the box and packaged.

How many onions per acre?
We weigh it out in hundred weight and we average about 650 in the yellows and this crop will be close to the average.

How much will you get pricewise?
Ill get about a $1000 per acre in the black.

Tell us more about your onions?
This variety is a vaquero; the vaquero is an old variety. It sometimes doesn’t produce a lot per hundred weight but it’s a good, solid onion. It’s very dense and keeps well in the shed. It has a very globe shape and it’s a decent quality onion as you can see.

So your thoughts on the crop overall?
I think the crops on the average look pretty decent but they’re late, the beans are two weeks late behind last year. It goes to reason that there has been a lot less BTU’s this year. These days you can’t measure a crops maturity by the number of days it’s been in the ground. You have to have the BTU’s in order to keep it growing and to reach maturity.

What are the practical uses of these onions?
I think an onion like this would be very good on your hamburger or any American consumer’s hamburger.

How many acres of Onions?
We have 45 acres of onions this year, 15 acres of red, 30 acres in yellow.

Average price?

The Yellows we have an average contracted rate of $5.50 per hundred weight, the reds, medium sized reds, we’ll get $10-12 dollars per hundred weight. The jumbo sized reds we’re hoping to get $25 per hundred weight for those.

How does the onion market work?
Onions are fresh produce and this market is very volatile. It’s supply and demand all the way. The onions go in the market pipeline and you always hope for a half-full pipeline to get the good prices. Anything less than that? Well, the market really rises fast and prices drop with supply. When the market is full it falls apart very fast. In fresh produce it’s very easy to get an oversupply, but its been a very steady market this year. Reds are short, the market is good on reds but could end quickly when another harvest area opens up and floods the pipeline.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Voice of Idaho Agriculture

Grazing Good for the Range?

By David Sparks, Northwest Ag radio network

A surprising piece of research about grazing on pastureland…may be a bad surprise for the Western Watersheds Project. The Western image of livestock grazing on expansive rangeland is an important component of livestock production, but it is only part of the picture, according to Northwest researchers who recently produced a new guide to pasture management.

Irrigated pastures, rich and green through the heat of summer, play an important role in beef and dairy operations, said Glenn E. Shewmaker of Idaho and Mylen Bohle, who edited the newly released 203-page book "Pasture and Grazing Management in the Northwest."

The pasture guide grew from the work of a decades-old informal group. Five years ago during a meeting, group members decided to tackle the need to provide a regional comprehensive education effort focused on pastures.

October is a critical time that they be allowed to rest so they have their batteries fully charged for the spring growth season."

Here’s the part that might surprise conservationists. “I think there’s room for livestock, wildlife, birds to be out there and in most instances the livestock can leave the rangeland in better condition if it’s done right. If it’s done improperly, there can be some damage done.”

The book offers a complete look at pastures from planning and planting to maintenance including irrigation and weed management. The three dozen authors drawn from the region's land grant universities also provide overviews of health considerations and grazing behavior of livestock.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Farm News

Jennifer and Brody Harshbarger, Fremont County, Jake Putnam photo

Farmland Viewed as Safer Investment Compared to Stocks

Los Angeles--Farmland is increasingly seen as a safer investment than the stock market, prompting wealthy Americans, private funds and foreigners to put money into corn fields, orchards and the like. “As investors tire of Wall Street’s roller coaster, more of them are plowing their money into land—farmland,” notes P.J. Huffstutter in an article in today’s Los Angeles Times.

U.S. farm release estate prices (including value of land and buildings) have nearly doubled over the last 10 years to $2,140 per acre. Wells Fargo, the nation’s top agricultural business lender in total dollar volume, increased farm lending 12 percent from 2008 to 2009 due to higher demand.

Investment in farmland is hot globally, not just in the U.S. Land acquisitions by foreign investors have shot up in countries such as Ethiopia and Mozambique. Interest in investing in farms in Asia, Africa and Brazil continues to grow.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Legal News

Tubbs Ranch, Malad, Jake Putnam photo

Grazing Fees Subject of Lawsuit
Washington--Eleven Western Farm Bureaus in the AFBF’s Western Region petitioned the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to intervene in defending two agencies against a lawsuit over grazing fees on federal land. Two environmental groups, the Western Watersheds Project and the Center for Biological Diversity, are the named plaintiffs in the suit.

The case, filed against the BLM and Forest Service seeks a court order to require agencies to reconsider how grazing fees are calculated and to perform environmental impact analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act prior to issuing grazing permits each year. According to Troy Bredenkamp, executive vice president of Colorado Farm Bureau, the effort seeks to increase the cost of permits and also slow down the approval process for all 200,000 permit holders in one fell swoop.

“If the plaintiffs are successful, the Forest Service and the BLM would have to conduct an environmental impact study for every permit they issue, every year. This will raise costs to the governing agencies and also potentially cause delays in the permitting process,” Bredenkamp said.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

End of Summer

Clifton, Idaho, north of Preston. Uploaded by Jake Putnam.

The 2010 Summer officially ends this week--with harvests of Idaho's biggest cash crops just getting underway, the verdict is still out on the success of this year's havest. But across the board market prices are at, or better than 2009.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wolf Ultimatum

Governor’s Wolf Ultimatum Prudent
By Frank Priestley, President, Idaho Farm Bureau

Clearly frustrated with a court decision re-listing wolves as an endangered species, Idaho Governor Butch Otter recently delivered an ultimatum that the State of Idaho will bequeath wolf management duties on October 7 if a reasonable agreement is not negotiated.

If the powers-that-be can’t find a way to allow Idaho to deal with problem wolves, the state won’t and shouldn’t continue to pay the cost of monitoring, providing law enforcement or investigating wolf deaths.

While walking away at this point is a difficult decision, we agree that it’s more important to demand that reason and common sense re-enter this discussion. Wolf management in the northern Rockies is uncertain at best right now and the future looks grim. We sympathize with Governor Otter’s position and we feel his frustration.

Idaho’s wolf population has grown beyond the wildest dreams of the federal biologists who led the reintroduction program. Idaho’s wolves are an unmatched endangered species recovery success. Yet this success shines a bright light on the need for reform of the Endangered Species Act. One of the Act’s biggest weaknesses is that it doesn’t provide an incentive to the very people affected most – rural Idahoans in this case – to take part in the recovery. Rural residents all over the northern Rockies have had to change the way they live and work, and earn their livings to accommodate this top tier predator. Most of us cannot comprehend what it takes to live with wolves.

Another extreme injustice in this mess is the fact that biased federal judges and unreasonable environmental fanatics in far-away places seem to have more say in wolf management than the people in harm’s way.

The cost of doing business in rural Idaho went up when wolves were reintroduced. When a rancher has fewer calves to sell it affects his family and his community. Wolves gave lots of rural Idaho families a cut in pay. Now in spite of the staggering success that is wolf recovery in Idaho, a court decision taking away Idaho’s ability to manage and hunt wolves basically guarantees those families and rural communities will suffer more economic losses.

Idaho’s wolf population has saturated the available habitat. As the unchecked wolf population continues to grow there will inevitably be more livestock depredations and loss of hunting opportunities. Managing wolves now means killing wolves and since it appears we won’t have wolf hunts in the near future, one of the federal agencies will have to take over the task of shooting marauding wolves.

In our opinion wolf management decisions should be made on the land in cooperation with the stakeholders, not in courtrooms or boardrooms thousands of miles away. The decision-makers should be accountable to the residents of this state. We applaud Governor Otter’s efforts and we yearn for a time when common sense and the welfare of rural Idahoans are given fair consideration. In addition, we don’t understand how all of this legal and political hullabaloo helps wolves or rural Idaho.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ritter at work

Ritter at work, originally uploaded by Jake Putnam.

Idaho Farm Bureau photographer Steve Ritter covers the fall grain harvest, near Soda Springs, Idaho. Ritter and producer Jake Putnam spent the day at Lakey Farms where they shot a profile on Tracy Lakey, Farm Bureau District One Woman of the Year.

Grain Harvest, Soda Springs

Jake Putnam photo

Soda Springs--The Eastern Idaho grain harvest is in full swing at Lakey Farms outside of Soda Springs, Idaho. Although yields are down from last year farmers report that quality and markets are good.

Just in from Washington

Farm Bureau, Others Seek to Keep Current tax Structure

Washington--The American Farm Bureau Federation and 29 other industry groups whose members file their tax returns as individuals is calling on Congress to keep the current income tax structure in place after it is set to expire Dec. 31.

The Obama administration has called for top rates to rise on income above $200,000 a year for individuals and $250,000 for couples, which represents a tax increase of about $40 billion next year relative to where rates are now. It is estimated that the higher tax rate would impact roughly half of business- and farm-related income on individual tax returns.

“The majority of businesses in this country are organized as pass-through entities, meaning they pay taxes at the individual rate and will be subject to these increases,” according to the group’s letter to Congress. Groups joining Farm Bureau in signing the letter include the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others representing businesses as diverse as funeral directors and air-conditioning contractors.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

University of Idaho News

Food, Fashion and Fun Highlight Ag Days Plans Sept. 17-18 at the University of Idaho
Written by Bill Loftus

, Idaho – First a chili cookoff, then a Top Chef-style competition to create a winning ice cream and cookie recipe followed by the traditional game day barbecue will mark Ag Days at the University of Idaho Sept. 17-18.

Food, fun and fashion, not to mention football and Dad's Weekend activities, all mark plans for the annual gathering of alumni sponsored by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. The Idaho Vandals will play host to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 18.

The college invites high school students to get a taste of college life during Ag Days. Plans range from a fall fashion frenzy that will challenge participants to repurpose shirts with decorative objects. High school students may choose from 30 workshops and food-and-lodging packages ranging from $60 to $115 for the weekend.

High school students interested in food science may choose to learn how to use an artificial nose to detect food aromas. Those interested in engineering and alternative fuels may explore how to squeeze more energy from biodiesel made with canola oil.

Registration for the high school workshops will be accepted until Friday, Sept. 10. Details are available online at .

The 18th Annual North Idaho Chili Cookoff will launch the Ag Days weekend activities with entries due and results announced Friday morning, Sept. 17. Entry forms and details are available online at .

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences student groups will sponsor their annual food fair from 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. on the mall to the east of the Agricultural Science Building, 606 Rayburn St. in Moscow.

The annual CALS pre-game barbecue Saturday from 5-7 p.m. will take place in a different venue this year, providing the main meal for Vandalville in the University of Idaho Commons. Tickets will be $12 for adults and $7 for students at the door.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bean Harvest Across Idaho

Farmer Tracy Walton prepares the 2010 bean harvest for combining on his Emmett farm. Steve Ritter photo.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Just in from Milk Producers of Idaho

Businesses, Farms that hire Illegal workers can lose business licenses

Philadelpia--The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has upheld the decision of a federal district court to allow the suspension of business licenses of employers that hire "unlawful workers," but with a safe harbor for any employer using the E-Verify system.

The court also upheld the injunction that would have prevented local landlords from renting property to undocumented foreign nationals.

The Third Circuit found that the Illegal Immigration Reform Act Ordinance was preempted by the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). Though the ordinance was a licensing law and thus not expressly preempted by IRCA, the Court found that it was invalid because it was an obstacle to IRCA’s objectives. The Court determined that Congress did not intend a local law such as IIRAO to supplement IRCA, especially in view of the federal statute’s careful balance between employment verification requirements and prohibitions against unfair immigration-related employment practices.

A similar court case regarding the latest state law passed in Arizona is ongoing. Last week Idaho has signed on as a “friend of the court” in support of the state of Arizona.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Peach harvest across Idaho

Peach harvest in Boise, originally uploaded by Jake Putnam.

Idaho's stone fruit harvest is in full swing. Orchard owners report a good crop but size is below normal because of late frost and cool, wet conditions last spring.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Showers through broken clouds

Showers through broken clouds, originally uploaded by Jake Putnam.

Despite unsettled weather across the Treasure Valley the 2010 Harvest is continuing with few delays. Jake Putnam photo

University of Idaho News

Parma Center Fruit Field Day Focuses on Tastings and Production Practices

Written by Bill Loftus

, Idaho – Tables of familiar and exotic fruits for the tasting will highlight the Parma Research and Extension Center's annual pomology program fruit field day Friday, Sept. 17.

Table grapes, peaches, nectarines, apples, quinces, Asian pears, persimmons, jujube, haskaps and mulberries number among the crops researchers explore at Parma. Participants will meet at the center at 29603 U of I Lane.

Those in season will be available for tasting at the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences pomology orchard located three miles north of the main office complex. The field day will run from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.

The pomology program at Parma, led by professor Essie Fallahi, draws hundreds of visitors each year to its field day to explore new fruits, variety trials of apples and other commercial crops and new production methods, including use of growth bioregulators.

Fallahi recently won election as the American Society for Horticultural Science's International Division vice president. He left Sept. 3 as an invited guest on a nine-day tour sponsored by the Chinese National Horticultural Association.

In addition to the popular fruit-tasting event, the Sept. 17 field day will include orchard tours to show production method tests such as super high density plantings.

The Parma center serves as a testing ground for a national apple rootstock study in cooperation with Cornell University and other top institutions. Another tour report will focus on Fuji apple irrigation, nutrition, chemical thinning and pesticide trials.

The center's table grape vineyards, the testbed that led to formation of the Snake River Table Grape Growers Association, will display production trials, including canopy studies and other production practices.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

President's Editorial

Putnam photo

Invasive Species Present Grave Concern

by Frank Priestley, Idaho Farm Bureau President

Anyone who tows a boat into Idaho is required to stop and have it inspected for invasive plants or small mussels clinging to the hull or outdrive. Normally it’s a five-minute or less stop that may be inconvenient for some people. But for Idaho agriculture it’s imperative to keep our state clean of these clingy critters and plants.

There are dozens of invasive species out there to be concerned about. But mainly, state officials are on the lookout for quagga mussels and zebra mussels. These little creepers cause billions of dollars of damage in the U.S. every year. They can attach to irrigation pipes or any other water delivery pipe and clog it off. They also compete with native plants and animals for food – they eat phytoplankton – and could cause the demise of native fish populations.

Both of these mussels are small and can attach to boat hulls, boat engines, fishing tackle and nets and hundreds of other possible tools or recreational gear. And that’s how they spread from one body of water to another.

Both of these mussels were introduced into the Great Lakes in the 1980s through ballast water dumped by foreign ships. Both are native to the Caspian Sea and can survive out of water for several days, or even up to a month under certain conditions.

Quagga mussels can tolerate a much wider range of temperatures and water depths than zebra mussels. They can also tolerate brackish water, and are able to thrive in areas that zebra mussels cannot. The quagga mussel is usually light tan to almost white, with narrow strips. It is fan-shaped and rounded on the edges. The zebra mussel shell is flat where the two shells attach. The quagga mussel is in Lake Mead, near Boulder City, Nevada, and Lake Havasu and Lake Mohave on the California/Arizona border.

Zebra mussels have spread to more than twenty states, and two Canadian provinces. They can be on aquatic plants attached to boats or trailers, or as microscopic larvae in bilges, live wells, motor cooling systems and other water systems, or attached to hulls, especially around trim tabs, transducers, keels or propellers.

Usually the zebra mussel is about the size of an adult fingernail, but can be as large as two inches, or as small as a sesame seed. Where introduced they threaten native fish and wildlife by consuming available food and smothering native species. They clog power plant and other water intakes, costing taxpayers millions.

The Idaho Farm Bureau supports the aggressive efforts of the Idaho State Department of Agriculture and other cooperating state and federal agencies to keep a vigilant guard against these troublesome pests, a battle that has been championed in the state through the tireless efforts of Rep. Eric Anderson (R-Priest Lake).

Some of these pests are established in our neighboring states, which makes this situation even more serious. For more information on invasive species go to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture home page at and click on the Invasive Species tab. We encourage all boat owners to comply with inspections and if you see anyone towing a boat that fails to stop at a boat inspection station please take down a license plate number and report it to the Idaho Invasive Species Hotline at 1-877-336-8676.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Just in from Washington

Interim Biotech Sugar Beet Measures Considered

Washington--The USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service is looking at temporary measures that could allow farmers to continue the production of biotech sugar beets uninterrupted in 2011. Among the interim measures being considered is partial deregulation. If partial deregulation is granted in a timely fashion, RoundUp Ready sugar beets could be approved for use by farmers before planting time next year.

On Aug. 13, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that biotech sugar beets, modified to resist the herbicide glyphosate, may not be planted until USDA completes an Environmental Impact Statement. Under the ruling, although the current crop (95 percent RoundUp Ready) can be harvested, sold and processed into sugar for resale, biotech sugar beets will not be available for sale for the 2011 crop year.

Farm Bureau continues to monitor the sugar beet issue, including expedited completion of the EIS by APHIS, which is expected to take two years.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Wheat Exports up 5.1 %

Photo courtesy of Robert Blair

Washington--The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it expects U.S. agricultural exports to increase 5.1% to $113 billion in the federal fiscal year ending in September 2011 because of an extended drought in the Soviet Union.

One of the biggest factors behind the expected rise is the likelihood that reduced competition from
Black Sea farmers will allow U.S. farmers to export $8.1 billion worth of wheat in fiscal 2011, up 35% from the USDA's revised fiscal 2010 forecast of $6 billion.

In May, the USDA forecast fiscal 2010 wheat exports of $5.3 billion.

The USDA also predicted that
U.S. corn exports will climb 16.5% in fiscal 2011 to $10.6 billion from its fiscal 2010 forecast of $9.1 billion. The agency also said it expects U.S. cotton exports to climb 25% in fiscal 2011 to $6 billion from $4.8 billion in fiscal 2010.

U.S. agricultural exports are climbing despite the rocky economy in the U.S. and much of developed world in part because U.S. farmers do a lot of their business with emerging Asian nations, which are generating the strongest growth.

The USDA said Tuesday it expects the
U.S. to export $47 billion worth of agricultural goods to Asia in fiscal 2011, up 5.1% from its upwardly revised forecast of $44.7 billion in fiscal 2010.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Steve Ballard cuts the Cheese

Gooding County Farm Bureau President Steve Ballard fries cheese at the Boise Farmers Market in downtown Boise. Ballard along with wife, Staci market Ballard Cheese at the Farmers market every Saturday.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Dairy News

Ballard Dairy, Jerome, Idaho--Jake Putnam photo

IDAHO MOVES AHEAD OF NEW YORK (AGAIN)…Idaho (once again) moved into third place nationally in total milk production. According to the USDA, milk production in Idaho during July totaled 1.12 billion pounds which is a 5.2% increase from July 2009 and is 4% over the June figures.

Nationwide, milk production in the 23 major milk-producing states increased 3% I July from the prior year, and 2.9% from July.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Scientific Discoveries

British Scientists Decode Wheat’s Genetic Sequence

London--British scientists have decoded the genetic sequence of wheat, which they hope will lead to the breeding of better strains. The researchers are posting the genetic code on the Internet so farmers can use it as a tool to improve harvests.

Neil Hall, a University of Liverpool scientist, said the information could help farmers better identify genetic variations responsible for disease resistance, drought tolerance and yield.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the date that the human genome was decoded. The genetic code of rice was unraveled in 2005, corn in 2009 and soybeans earlier this year. Hall said breaking wheat’s genetic code took longer than other crops because it is more massive than corn, soybeans and rice.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Ag Pavilion has a new home at the Twin Falls County Fair.

DSCN2829, originally uploaded by IdFarmBureau.

Promoting Agriculture in the Magic Valley

Twin Falls--Twin Falls County Farm Bureau President Jim Pearson stands in front of the new Ag Pavilion at the Twin Falls County Fair. The building is the end result of a year's worth of coordination between Food Producers, Twin Falls Farm Bureau and the Twin Falls Fair Board.

In years past the pavilion was housed in a 60 by 100 foot tent, now it's housed in a shinny, huge building that will tell Idaho agriculture's story for decades to come.

In the past the Ag Pavilion was rotated between the Twin Falls and Eastern Idaho fairs, but it has found a home at the expanding Twin Falls Fair, the Food Producers and the Farm Bureau signed a 5-year contract, and TFBF President Jim Pearson is confident that they could sign for five more. The idea for the new building came from the YF and R ranks and his county fair board.

"So we priced the building, the material came in at $65,000," said Pearson. "County crews built the building and they're carrying the note and we're responsible for payments over the next five years. So everything fell into place. It's an excellent location between the animal barns and the food court so we decided to do it."

Home grown energy

Steve Ritter found this oil derrick growing out of a cornfield a mile outside of New Plymouth, he found that there had been a major oil and gas discovery in Payette County.


New Plymouth--In Payette County, oil derricks are springing up out of corn fields, and it’s the latest twist in Idaho’s quest for homegrown energy.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter told the Idaho Statesman that the discovery is “a hell of a big natural gas well” that could offer one million cubic feet a day of ‘sweet gas’, sweet gas needs no processing and can be piped directly into natural gas pipelines for immediate use.

The wells are in sandstone near Idaho Power Co.’s Langley Gulch power station near New Plymouth. They’re expected to feed gas directly into a nearby pipeline on the Williams Northwest Pipeline System. Overall there were 29 test wells drilled in the area, 18 look promising and two are producing gas right now.

Governor Otter is excited about the project because at least one well is on state land, he says natural gas wells could provide the state a new revenue source from royalties and taxes.

According to the State Land Board the well on state land could return more than 12.5 percent royalties directly to the state. Idaho Power is also excited about the discovery because they’re planning on building a natural gas co-generation plant just a few miles from the discovery site.

Up until this year there has been no oil or gas production in Idaho, despite the fact that oil companies have been drilling test sites in the Gem State since 1900, the last test well was drilled back in 1988 in Payette, but it didn’t pan out.

Bridge Corp. and Paramax Limited out of Calgary are conducting the drilling operations and they’re looking to expand seismic and drilling operations outside of Payette and throughout the Boise Basin where they have more than 100,000 acres under lease.

The operations manager for the gas exploration company says it's too early to categorize this as a major discovery. "We have had some encouragement there," said Jeff Kirn. "We have wells that look promising, and we plan to do more.”

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Purdum's pepper harvest

A peck of peppers at Purdum's photo by Steve Ritter
Pepper harvest two weeks late

Payette--The pepper harvest is two weeks late because of cool,inclimate weather. 2010 may go down as the coldest summer of the millennium, yesterdays was listed as the coldest day of the summer.

"Its definitely the coldest year I remember," said Robyn Purdum co-owner of Purdum farms. "Last year was wet but we had the heat and things grew well but this year its been cold, and we were off to a real late start,"said Purdum.

Purdum's has become a destination spot for chilli chefs throughout the Treasure Valley in recent years because they harvest more than 30 different varieties of peppers. Purdum's is celebrating their 14th year of business just off I-84's Payette exit.

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