Friday, December 31, 2010

Rural Representation shrinks

Census Points to Less Rural Representation in Congress

Washington--According to the latest U.S. Census numbers, urban areas continue to grow nationwide and will gain congressional seats, while rural areas will have less representation in Congress. The change could make it more difficult to build support for federal farm programs, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said during an appearance on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Pressprogram.

“Because we have agricultural production that is the best in the world, consumers have a tremendous advantage in America,” Vilsack said. “We only spend about 10 percent to 15 percent of our paycheck for groceries. Part of the reason we do that is because we have a strong safety net for those producers who are faced with bad weather or bad markets. That allows them to stay in business.”

During the program, Vilsack also noted that revitalizing rural economies is essential in order to repopulate rural communities and return political strength to rural America.

Brownfield article

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Just in from Capitol Hill

New Meat-Labeling Rule Slated For 2012

Washington--Beginning in 2012, more information about meat purchased by consumers will appear on package labels. The Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service published its final rule “Nutrition Labeling of Single-Ingredient Products and Ground or Chopped Meat and Poultry Products” in the Federal Register today. The rule has been 10 years in the making.

Under the new rule, labels are required on meat packaging or at the point of purchase for major cuts of single ingredient, raw meat and poultry products. The rule also requires nutrition labels on all ground or chopped meat and poultry products unless the products are exempted.

In an article in USA Today, the reporter pointed to a label for 73 percent lean ground beef, noting a single serving has 60 percent of suggested daily intake of fat. However, the American Meat Institute points out that consumers will also have the opportunity to learn from labels that meat is a lean, healthy source of protein. AMI supports the new labeling rule, noting that boneless chicken breasts have 165 calories and 3.57 grams of fat per 100-gram serving, a serving of beef eye of round has 166 calories with 4.87 grams of total fat and pork tenderloin provide 143 calories and 3.51 grams of fat per 100-gram serving.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Just in from the University of Idaho

Jan. 13-14 Snake River Sugar Beet Conference to Cover Both Options Facing Growers

TWIN FALLS, Idaho – Uncertainty about the fate of herbicide-tolerant sugar beets likely will be one of the most discussed issues facing growers attending the annual University of Idaho Snake River Sugar Beet Conference Jan. 13-14.

The issue also will be one that growers have the least control over, said Don Morishita, University of Idaho Extension weed science specialist at Twin Falls. As a result, the conference will straddle both options: that conventional or Roundup Ready sugar beets will dominate the 2011 crop year, depending on an anticipated ruling in Federal court.

The conference will focus on economics, agronomy and harvest technologies that will benefit sugar beet growers whether they are cleared to plant Roundup Ready sugar beets in 2011 or not, Morishita said.

The conference on the College of Southern Idaho campus will begin Jan. 13 with registration at 1:20 p.m. followed by the general session at 2:30 p.m. The conference will continue Jan. 14. A related trade show featuring product and information booths will run both days.

The conference preregistration fee will be $25 per person until Jan. 3 and $30 afterward. Registration will take place in the Taylor Building and the general session in the Fine Arts Auditorium. Breakout sessions will be held in the Shields Building.

The opening general session will feature business consultant Mary Webb and GK Technology agronomist and harvesting technology expert Kelly Sharpe.

Webb specializes in devising and managing innovative and successful economic development projects, and has worked extensively with grower-owned cooperatives like the Snake River Sugar Co. She will talk about the dynamics of cooperatives and factors that make them successful.

Sharpe will review how growers can adjust their sugar beet harvesting equipment to reduce damages to the crop during harvest and lessen losses of undersized beets.

Morishita said breakout sessions will feature the latest strategies for disease, insect and weed control in both conventional and Roundup Ready sugar beets. Other sessions will focus on an array of agronomic topics such as soil sample interpretation and nutrition. Demonstration sessions also will focus on the calibration and maintenance of sugar beet planters.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Just in from Washington

Farm Bureau Members Credited for Passage of Estate Tax Relief

Washington--America’s farmers and ranchers are celebrating the estate tax victory achieved during the lame duck session of Congress but know that the victory won’t last forever.

“It’s the best deal that was ever envisioned for this Congress, but it is temporary. It’s only a two-year provision, so that means that come next year, we’ll have to start working to keep this good estate law on the books,” said Patricia Wolff, American Farm Bureau Federation tax specialist.

Wolff credits Farm Bureau members for contributing to the passage of tax relief this year. “The estate tax was set to go back on the books Jan. 1 with only a $1 million exemption level and a 55 percent rate. That was egregious. It inspired farmers and ranchers from all over this country to tell their story to their member of Congress and it was those stories that convinced Congress to enact an exemption level that was high enough to protect family farms,” she said.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Sign of the times

Number of Christmas Tree Farms Declining in United States

Saint Louis--The number of Christmas tree farms is declining across the United States, with farmers describing the year-round business as labor-intensive. Increased costs for chemicals make it tough to earn a profit.

“It’s a lot of hard work,” said Jim Bowen, who has operated Bowen’s Christmas Tree Farm near Pittsburg, Mo., for nearly three decades.

The National Christmas Tree Association cites USDA data from the 2007 Census of Agriculture that shows the number of live Christmas tree farms nationally declined by more than 7 percent from 2002 to 2007, the most recent year for the census.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Road Closure

Egin-Hamer area closes January 1st

Idaho Falls--For the 13th year, the Egin-Hamer Area Closure places nearly 500 square miles of land off-limits to human entry for the protection of wintering deer, elk, and moose herds. The closure begins on Jan. 1 and lasts through the end of March on lands south of the Egin-Hamer Road and until April 30.

What started out as an idea by local county commissioners to reopen a popular farm to market road 13 years ago, continues to be a success not just for humans, but also for wintering wildlife.

The lack of human disturbance created by the closure has allowed herds of deer, elk, and moose to spend more time down on the desert between St. Anthony and Dubois during crucial portions of the late winter and early spring.

Every year, joint enforcement by Fish and Game, BLM, and Fremont County law enforcement officials make dozens of contacts related to closure violations. Depending on the agency making the contact, penalties can range into the hundreds of dollars and result in a Class B misdemeanor on the violator's record.

Again, last May on the opening day after the closure, a joint task force of county, state and federal employees spread out across the area to make sure the public understood that even though the area was open, certain cross-country travel restrictions were still in place.

The arrangement for the closure was agreed upon when county commissioners approached the BLM with the idea of the area closure in return for the re-opening of the Egin-Hamer Road for winter travel. State agencies, such as Fish and Game and the Idaho Department of Lands, also have land involved in the closure and play an active role in management. Private landowners accessing their own private lands are exempt from the closure. The active St. Anthony Sand Dunes, from the Red Road to Thunder Mountain and adjacent to Egin Lakes access, are also exempt from the closure.

Occasionally powered parachutes, helicopters and small planes have been sighted flying low over the closure area. While the air space is not restricted, pilots of all types are cautioned to not harass the wintering, deer, elk and moose. If the machines are flying low enough to cause the wildlife to move away, they are flying too low. The public is also reminded that the closure includes all vegetated areas surrounding the designated Red Road "snow play" area north of Sand Hill Resort. The popular Civil Defense Caves are also included within the closure boundaries

Boundaries of the closure are posted, and free detailed maps are available from the BLM or Fish and Game in Idaho Falls. The Fremont and Jefferson county sheriffs' offices also have copies of the map available for the public. This year, maps are also being posted at local motor sports dealers and vehicle stickers outlets to help reach more people.

For more information, including free maps of the closure, contact the Fish and Game office at 208-525-7290 or the BLM Office at 208-523-1012, both in Idaho Falls.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wheat rollover

Camas County grain elevator--Putnam photo

Nation in Grain Elevator Building Boom

New York--A number of factors are creating a grain elevator building boom in the United States, with the nation’s grain storage capacity reaching an all-time high. According to the Agriculture Department, federally licensed, off-farm storage capacity now tops 4.5 billion bushels, surpassing the 1988 peak.

Storage capacity is expected to grow further in the coming years. Several new facilities are under development, including a pair of country elevators planned by Archer Daniels Midland Co. in Nebraska, and an elevator being developed in Montana by the Gavilon Group, a commodities firm.

Factors driving the growth include a drop in interest rates funding construction projects. Rising grain crop yields and growing demand for ethanol are the major contributors to the building boom.

NASDAQ article

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ag Disaster Declaration

Fremont County--Putnam photo

Teton County Receives Natural Disaster Designation by USDA

Boise– Farmers in Teton, Bonneville, Fremont, and Madison counties have until August 17, 2011 to apply for emergency loan assistance. The Idaho State Emergency Board (SEB) has received notification from USDA that the request made through the office of Governor Butch Otter for an agricultural disaster declaration for Teton County has been approved.

Dick Rush, SEB Chair and State Executive Director for the Farm Service Agency said that USDA has designated Teton County and three contiguous counties as natural disaster areas due to losses caused by unseasonal freezing, rain and hail during August and September of 2010 adversely affecting grains and other crops in the area. "I understand these conditions caused severe damage to area crops and affected the value of the harvest," said Rush. "This action will provide help to those producers who suffered significant production losses."

Secretarial disaster designation makes farm operators in both primary and contiguous counties eligible to be considered for assistance from the FSA, provided eligibility requirements are met. Contiguous counties include Bonneville, Fremont and Madison County. This assistance includes FSA emergency loans as well as the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) Program. SURE program applications will not be accepted until later in 2011 when 2010 farm revenue data has been received. Emergency loan applications can be accepted immediately and each application will be considered on its own merits, taking into account the extent of production losses, security available, and repayment ability.

For more information, or to apply for a loan under the designation, contact your local FSA County Office prior to the deadline. Contact #'s in the affected area are: Teton County - 275 Old Railroad Way, Driggs, ID 83422, Phone 208-354-3680; Bonneville County - 1120 E Lincoln Rd. Suite B, Idaho Falls, ID 83401, Phone 208-744-6250; Fremont County 1210 S Industrial Park Road, St. Anthony, ID 83445, Phone 208-624-7391; and Madison County - 302 Profit, Rexburg, ID 83440, Phone 208-356-5701.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Just in: Sugar Beet legal battle continues

Court Puts Sugar Beet Seedling Destruction on Hold

San Francisco-- The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco issued a ruling that puts on hold a judge’s order to dig up 256 acres of biotech sugar beet seedlings. The hold remains in place until Feb. 28 or whenever the court reaches a final order, whichever comes first.

Biotech sugar beets are grown on 1.3 million acres in 10 states and provide half the nation’s sugar supply. In a court filing, Monsanto and other biotech sugar beet companies said the biotech stecklings or seedlings could “save the livelihoods of thousands of our nation’s sugar beet farmers.”

Just in from Capitol Hill

Lucas Welcomes New GOP House Ag Committee Members

Washington-- House Agriculture Committee Chairman-elect Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) issued a statement congratulating the 16 new Republican members of the House Agriculture Committee for the 112th Congress.

“I am pleased to welcome our new members to the Agriculture Committee. They represent a broad slice of the country and will bring that perspective as we address the issues facing production agriculture and rural economies. The work of our committee affects the lives of every American. We must work to ensure that there is proper oversight of the administration, that rural America has opportunities for job growth, and that our farmers and ranchers have the necessary tools and certainty they need to provide us with a safe, affordable and abundant food, fiber, feed and fuel supply,” Lucas said.

The new Republican members on the Agriculture Committee are Rick Crawford of Arkansas, Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee, Renee Elmers of North Carolina, Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, Bob Gibbs of Ohio, Chris Gibson of New York, Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, Randy Hultgren of Illinois, Reid Ribble of Wisconsin, Martha Roby of Alabama, Bobby Schilling of Illinois, Austin Scott of Georgia, Steve Southerland of Florida, Marlin Stutzman of Tennessee and Scott Tipton of Colorado.
House Agriculture Committee Republicans news release

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas and Agriculture

Ballard cheese--Ritter photo
Holiday Shopping Helps Some Small Farms to Diversify
Gooding-- The holiday shopping season is proving to be an important winter revenue stream for a number of small farms across the country seeking to diversify.

Ballard Cheese offered online christmas shopping this year from their website sending out blocks of gourmet cheese all over the U.S. for shoppers while other farms are discovering that maple syrup, jams, pies, hams and other popular holiday items are a good way to make money during a typically quiet period. In Vermont, holiday farmers’ markets are gaining in popularity.

"Certainly with the holiday season being a great time of eating, a lot of people are excited about making holiday meals from local foods,” said Jean Hamilton, direct marketing coordinator for Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont.
--Bloomberg article

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas 2010

Real Christmas Trees Always Top Artificial Ones

Portland--Tom McNabb of Yule Tree Farms in Oregon gets a little flabbergasted when folks question if buying a real tree is better for the environment than an artificial tree, which he points out are made of petrochemicals.

“A real tree is grown on the plantation, it’s not from a forest but grown on a plantation just like corn or anything else, it’s just that it takes seven years to harvest it. They take in the carbon dioxide to produce oxygen. So they’re scrubbing a little bit of the environment. Basically the artificial tree is a toilet bowl brush that is a little bit prettier,” McNabb tells AFBF’s Johnna Miller in a Newsline interview.

Roughly 25-30 million real Christmas trees are sold every year in the U.S. For every one of those, one to three new seedlings are planted the following spring. McNabb said these tree farms not only help to maintain green space, but are also a smart use of the land.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Just in

Osgood harvest--Putnam photo
Ag Machinery Makers Predict 2.4 Percent Growth in 2010

Des Moines--Agricultural machinery manufacturers predict overall business in the United States to close out 2010 with 2.4 percent growth, then gain 3.7 percent in 2011 and 2.4 percent in 2012, followed by 2013 growth of 3 percent, according to the just-released agriculture equipment business outlook survey of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers

For 2-wheel-drive tractors, the most growth through 2013 is predicted for machines with 40-100 HP. For 4-wheel-drive tractors, strongest growth is seen for 2010 with double-digit sales increases, up 18.8 percent in the U.S. Sales of combines are expected to increase 6.4 percent in the U.S. by year end 2010.

AEM is the North American-based international trade group for the off-road equipment manufacturing industry. Each business-activity forecast is the average of responses from companies in each product line, predicting industry-wide expectations rather than individual company performance, and unit sales rather than company profitability. Click here for the full survey results, which are online at in the market information section.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Just in from the American Farm Bureau

Statement by Bob Stallman, President, American Farm Bureau Federation, Regarding House Passage of Tax Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 17, 2010 – The American Farm Bureau Federation is pleased the House voted in favor of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010, which passed by Senate earlier this week.

“Securing meaningful estate tax reform for farm and ranch families has been a top priority for Farm Bureau. We are pleased the House left intact the estate tax provision that provides a $5 million exemption and maximum rate of 35 percent. Other tax provisions included in the legislation, which are important for farmers and ranchers, include lower capital gains and income taxes and tax incentives for renewable fuels.

“We commend President Obama and congressional leaders for being committed to securing passage of this tax bill. It offers considerable relief that will help farmers, ranchers and rural communities in these difficult economic times.”

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Season of giving

Ranchers Fight Hunger

Boise--Officials from Idaho Beef Council, the Idaho Cattle Association, the Idaho CattleWomen, Agri Beef Co. teamed up with the Idaho Foodbank and the Salvation Army to present $80,000 dollars in beef, cash and donated labor in an effort to feed the hungry this holiday season.

Charles Lyons of Percy Ranch of Mountain Home is the President of the Idaho Cattle Association, he says the donation is an annual event. "It helps show what ranchers do, we feed people, thats what we do. It's an honor to help feed people who might be down on their luck this holiday season."

USDA guidelines recommend consuming an average of 6 ounces of protein per day, per person for a healthy diet. Beef Counts is a program designed to provide a consistent supply of high-quality protein throughout the year to the Foodbank. This is done through cash and animal contributions made by Idaho cattle ranchers, then matched by Agri Beef Co.

Just in from Washington

Tax Voting Set to Begin at Noon Today in Senate

Washington--Senate voting on the extension of 2001 and 2003 tax cuts is set to begin at noon today. The voting will begin on three motions to suspend the rules before advancing to the final vote on the legislation.

Farm Bureau supports the $859 billion bill, which would extend all existing individual income tax rates for two years and set the estate tax exemption at $5 million with a maximum rate of 35 percent. The bill also continues the 15 percent tax rate on dividends and capital gains and raises the alternative minimum tax exemption level through 2011.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Season of giving

Beef Counts and Agri Beef to Deliver Early Gifts to Hungry Idahoans

Boise--The Idaho Foodbank will receive an early Christmas gift, thanks to generous donations from Idaho’s beef industry. On Thursday, Dec. 16, at 10 a.m., representatives from the Idaho beef industry will present The Idaho Foodbank with a check for $80,000, representing contributions from the pioneering Beef Counts campaign and a matching gift from Agri Beef Co.

The Foodbank will also recognize the most recent beef donations received through the Beef Counts campaign and was delivered in time for Christmas – 4,102 beef roasts of 3.5-4 pounds each. This gift totals about 15,000 pounds of nutritious beef into The Idaho Foodbank network. . This meat will go a long way toward helping the Foodbank meet the goal of its Hope for the Holidays campaign – to provide holiday meals for every hungry Idahoan

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Just in--

Court Hears Immigration Appeal
Washington--The U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the appeal of Arizona’s Employer Sanction legislation/Illegal Immigration law.

The suit was brought by diversified groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Civil Liberties Union. Earlier this year the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law which prompted the appeal to the Supreme Court.

There's a new Justice on the court and Justice Kagan has recused herself because she served as the U.S. Solicitor General when the federal government sided with the challengers creating a conflict.

It's an interesting case because overturn the law, five Supreme Court Justices will have to side with the challengers – a tie vote will uphold the 9th circuit decision.

Furthermore this case could impact the 2011 Idaho Legislature because if the Arizona law is upheld, Lawmakers could see several similar pieces of legislation introduced this session, but if the Court determines that the Arizona law unconstitutional; it's unlikely that 'Arizona type' legislation could become law in the Gem State.
Source: MPI

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fox News Examines the Beet Situation

Round-Up Ready Stand Still
By Bri Eggers, Fox 12 News
Nampa, ID - It's a waiting game that has local farmer's asking,'what's next'?
"What we're talking about is 1.8 million tons of sugar," said Jake Putnam of the Idaho Farm Bureau.

One million acres of sugar beets in our nation provides half of the sugar consumed in the U.S. This crop is a huge part of our economy. "There's just a lot of money in the state of Idaho generated by sugar production," said sugar beet farmer, Steve Woodard.

Still no word from U.S. District Judge Jeffery White on if round-up ready sugar beet seed will be out-lawed. This one decision could change everything for the farmers, and they need an answer now.

"This is the time of the year when they're buying beet seed and trying to figure out how many acres to plant, they can't do that right now," Putnam said.

After a week of growers' meetings in the state, agricultural leaders are urging farmers to take a deep breath and stay calm. "Take a little bit of time, don't panic, and let's just see what shakes out within the next three to four weeks," he said.

But farmers know the huge impact the decision could have; not just on their crops, but on everyone. "There'll be some financial hardships especially in our communities and individual farming operations if we can't produce sugar beets," Woodard said.

"You take all of that sugar out of the equation, all of the sudden, you see food prices take a spike," said Putnam. The Farm Bureau says although food prices won't increase right away, we could see a major spike in 2012, if round-up ready seed is taken away.

"A winter of apprehension for sugar beet growers, because we don't know exactly what to do," Woodard said. "What everyone in the sugar beet industry does know, is a decision needs to be made soon, so farmers can start planning.

"The closer that we get to that planting time, the more that it's going to damage, the prospects of the 2011 crop," Putnam said, "It's a hurry up and wait game.

Again, that decision by Judge White is expected in the next few weeks, but farmers say they need to know by New Year's Day so that planting can start at the beginning of March.

Just in--

USDA Announces Steps on Climate Change

Washington--Calling it “one of the greatest threats facing our planet,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday announced that USDA is taking action to meet the challenge of climate change. Speaking at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, Vilsack said USDA will demonstrate ways landowners can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration while improving their financial bottom line. The effort includes providing opportunities to leverage private sector demand for GHG mitigation services and evaluating how emerging greenhouse gas markets can work in concert with USDA programs to protect the environment.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will provide $15 million in Conservation Innovation Grant funds and other assistance to support large-scale demonstration projects to accelerate the adoption of new approaches to reduce GHG emissions and promote carbon sequestration on private lands. As part of this, NRCS will provide financial assistance to support eligible producers as they implement conservation practices. The Farm Service Agency will implement a project to provide information to landowners who enroll in certain tree planting conservation practices under the Conservation Reserve Program and who voluntarily request an estimate of the amount of carbon stored as a result of these practices.

Vilsack also announced the release of USDA’s Climate Change Science Plan, which will incorporate management of the challenges created by climate change into the scientific missions of USDA. Also on Thursday, institutions in seven states were awarded federal funding for research on the economics of reducing agricultural GHG emissions. USDA will fund studies to examine the economics of agricultural participation in proposed greenhouse gas markets, including the potential impacts on GHG reduction.

USDA news release

Sunday, December 12, 2010

President's Editorial

Power Rate Increase Unjustified
by Frank Priestley, Idaho Farm Bureau President

A proposed rate increase that would jump power bills in Eastern Idaho by an average of 13.7 percent is ill-timed and unwarranted.

Rocky Mountain Power, a subsidiary of PacifiCorp, serves nearly 70,000 Idaho customers and was purchased by Berkshire Hathaway in 2006. The company controls significant electricity generation and transmission capabilities in Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Arizona and other western states. Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO, Warren Buffet, is the third wealthiest man on the planet, according to Forbes Magazine.

Idaho’s economy is experiencing the longest, deepest, most pervasive recession in more than 70 years. Our state has lost 15,000 jobs and hundreds of businesses have closed. Our remaining employers are critical and a power rate increase, which would hit manufacturing industries hardest, is likely to slow the region’s economic recovery.

Southeast Idaho’s manufacturing sector could see power costs rise from 15.9 to 19.6 percent. Some of those businesses would theoretically be able to pass the increased cost along to their customers. Others will not. Farmers who pump irrigation water could see a 9.6 percent increase but are likely to get hit harder than that if they have contracts to supply food processing companies with raw products.

Homeowners are facing increases in the 8 percent range. If this attack on Idaho businesses and families is approved by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, the impact will be felt throughout the region. In addition, Idaho Governor Butch Otter has promoted Idaho as an attractive place for new businesses to locate. If this increase goes through in full it could tip the scales against businesses relocating to Idaho.

To justify the increase Rocky Mountain Power cites demands of growth and the cost of new renewable energy generation as reasons. Yet both of these arguments lack technical merit. First, the company has had to recently lower its power load projections and scale back plans for growth due to the downtrodden economy. All of Rocky Mountain Power’s renewable generation is already subscribed to by requirements of neighboring states. Idaho does not yet have a renewable power portfolio requirement. This raises the question of whether Idaho residents are being asked to subsidize our neighboring states.

Rocky Mountain’s rate proposal assumes it should receive a 10.6 percent “rate of return” for its shareholders. In our opinion that is just too much to ask of Idaho families during a recession. And in addition, Rocky Mountain’s rates are already high compared to other power suppliers in Idaho. No other utility is proposing increases anywhere near this level and in fact, Idaho Power recently announced a 6.3 percent reduction in rates.

An increase of this magnitude will put a severe strain on thousands of Idaho families and businesses. We strongly encourage the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to send Rocky Mountain Power back to the drawing board to come up with a plan that doesn’t harm families, increase the cost of living and force businesses to close their doors.

The IPUC will hold public hearings on the rate proposal on December 14 in Shelley and Rexburg, December 15 in Grace and Preston, and by telephone conference on December 20. For more information follow this link:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Just in from Capitol Hill

Passage of Estate Tax Provisions Expected

Washington--Despite opposition by many Democrats, passage of estate tax provisions included in the tax framework laid out by President Barack Obama and congressional leaders is likely, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Support for the estate tax provisions appeared stronger in the Senate, particularly among incumbents facing re-election in 2012. However, it is expected there will be enough Democratic centrists in the House to join with Republicans and pass the tax bill with the estate tax provisions included.

“It’s not going to be changed,” said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), an author of the estate tax provision. Farm Bureau is pushing for passage of provisions that include an estate tax rate of 35 percent with an exemption of $5 million for individuals. Without action by Congress this year, the estate tax will return next year to its pre-2001 levels, with a $1 million exemption level and a 55 percent tax rate.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Just in from Capitol Hill

Steve Ritter photo



Crapo, Risch, Murray say $130 million in exports at stake

Washington, D.C. When the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture renews talks with Mexico this week, potatoes should be on the plate, say U.S. Senators from Idaho and Washington. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Patty Murray (D-Washington) wrote USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, advising him to include potatoes among the trade issues he discusses with Mexican officials.

Mexico agreed in 2003 to allow the distribution of potatoes to its northern states, but, to date, have limited that trade to within a 26-kilometer zone of the U.S. border. Widening that trade area could be worth upwards of $130 million per year to U.S. producers, many of them in Idaho and Washington State.

“This is particularly troubling, given that the Mexico potato market is worth about $30 million per year to U.S. producers,” wrote Crapo, Risch and Murray in a letter to Vilsack. “As a result, American growers are denied a significant trade opportunity, which industry estimates could eventually exceed $130 million per year. These lost markets exacerbate the current economic climate, as these exports could translate to significant employment growth in the agricultural sector.”

Vilsack’s discussions with Mexican officials on trade and other issues are expected to take place this week while the Secretary is in town for the UN-led climate change negotiations.

Just in from Capitol Hill

Farm Bureau Members Urged to Push Congress for Tax Relief

Washington--Farm Bureau members are urged to contact their members of Congress and ask them to support extension of tax cuts set to expire this year. Messages from Farm Bureau members are critical in making sure that the $5 million exemption and 35 percent top rate are included in the final agreement and becomes law.

“Time is running short for Congress to act, and House and Senate Democrats have not yet announced support for the agreement,” said Cody Lyon, AFBF director of grassroots advocacy. “State Farm Bureaus are encouraged to engage their members through e-mails, phone calls, letters from leadership and any other direct contact that can be made quickly.”

To contact your member of Congress, click here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Convention Rewind: in Photos

Bagley wins, originally uploaded by Steve's Photo Library.

Bagley:2010 Discussion Meet Winner

Boise--Stephen Bagley of Victor,(far right) won top honors in this year’s Young Farmer and Rancher Discussion Meet. Bagley took home a check for $500 from Dodge and a new Polaris four-wheeler for his efforts. In addition he will receive an all-expense paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation Meeting in Atlanta next month where he will compete against peers from throughout the nation. Bagley also won the YF&R Excellence in Agriculture Award this year taking home a new laptop computer and a second $500 check from Dodge. Austin and Maysi Tubbs of Oneida County won the YF&R Achiever Award, also winning a four-wheeler from Polaris, a $500 check from Dodge and a trip to Atlanta.

To see all the convention photos:

Just in from Washington

Farm Bureau Celebrates 50 Years of Membership Growth

Washington--Farm Bureau’s national membership rose to 6,279,813 member families in 2010, marking 50 consecutive years of membership growth. State Farm Bureaus overall reported a total 2,149 more member families this year than in 2009.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman credited strong agricultural advocacy programs at the local, state and national levels and the growing portfolio of services offered by state Farm Bureaus for the organization’s 50th straight year of membership growth.

Kentucky Farm Bureau had the single largest gain of 16,964 members, bringing its membership to 500,316. Other state organizations with significant growth included Texas, which grew by 15,414 members to 454,674; North Carolina, which grew by 11,637 members to 520,063; Tennessee, which gained 8,887 members to reach 655,127; and Illinois which grew by 4,124 members to 426,043. Tennessee Farm Bureau is the largest in the nation.

Delaware Farm Bureau had the single largest percentage membership gain, growing 19.9 percent to 5,396 member families. Rounding out the top five by percentage of growth were Montana (9.3 percent), Utah (9.1 percent), West Virginia (8.7 percent) and Pennsylvania (7.7 percent). The Northeast region had the largest percentage of growth, 4 percent.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Convention Re-cap

Canada gray-wolf, originally uploaded by IdFarmBureau.

Farm Bureau Delegates Amend Wolf Policy

BOISE – Delegates to the 71st Annual Idaho Farm Bureau Convention amended the organization’s policy on wolves this week supporting a predator classification.

Delegates expressed frustration and skepticism with the federal government’s wolf management plans but did retain language supporting a wolf hunting season should the predator be removed from the Endangered Species list. The delegation, with representation from 37 county Farm Bureaus also adopted language encouraging Idaho to invoke 10th Amendment state sovereignty rights over wolf management on all state and private lands.

A look back:Convention photos

Presidents Cup, originally uploaded by Steve's Photo Library.

Boise--Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley awarded Don and Judi Hale of Blackfoot the IFBF President’s Cup for their contribution to agriculture over the past three decades. Don Hale passed away last spring. He emerged as a water rights advocate in the 80’s, serving as a water master and eventually serving on the Committee of 9. Judi Hale has a lifetime of involvement in every aspect of Farm Bureau. Judi owns and operates the family farm in Blackfoot.

“I think Farm Bureau gave us the chance to make a name for ourselves, and it gave me a chance to find out who I really was and learn things for myself and be a leader; If Don were around he would be proud,” said Judi Hale.

Want to see all of the IFBF Annual Meeting photos? go here: or:

Just in--

Joyce Ranch--Ritter photo

Free Trade Agreement Re-opens South Korea

Washington--Good news for Idaho ranchers the U.S.-South Korean Free Trade Agreement could bolster beef prices and spark even better U.S. markets.

South Korea was one of the top importers our beef buying more than $1 billion in annual sales prior to 2003. But the BSE scare brought beef bans and U.S. ranchers took a hit that has taken seven years to bounce back. "The American Farm Bureau Federation is pleased the U.S. and Korean governments have come to an agreement that will allow the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement to move forward. We are optimistic that what has been agreed to will allow the FTA to reach the steps of Congress for passage. Farm Bureau has been a strong advocate for passage of the agreement and urges President Obama to send the implementing language to Capitol Hill as soon as possible," said American Farm Bureau President, Bob Stallman.

Once the agreement is ratified, the Free Trade Agreement will eliminate heavy tariffs on U.S. agricultural products -- especially beef.
“The Korean FTA is important for American agriculture and the U.S. economy. At full implementation of the deal, we estimate an increase of $1.8 billion in U.S. agricultural trade per year,” said Stallman.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Beet Comment Deadline ends today

Darrington beets, Burley, Idaho, Jake Putnam photo

Round-up Ready Beet Comment Period ends Today

Washington--The U.S. Department of Agriculture is accepting comments on the environmental assessment of the use of Roundup Ready sugar beet seed on an interim basis for the 2011 growing season.

The deadline for submitting comments is today.

The USDA approved Roundup Ready sugar beets back in 2005 and have been widely used since then. Farmers almost exclusively use Roundup in their beet operations and planted 95 percent of all sugar beet acreage in a 10-state area, including Idaho. The use of the seed eliminates almost all field labor required to pull weeds from beet fields.

A lawsuit brought by the Center for Food Safety earlier this year that voided the original USDA approval for the seed. According to industry officials, the court ruling took away farmers' choice to use the technology, even though there's never been proof of harming the environment.

The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service published a draft environmental assessment Nov. 4 providing analysis of environmental impacts associated with action plans under consideration.

The draft environmental assessment examines the alternatives that USDA reviewed to give farmers the choice to plant Roundup Ready sugar beets until the full environmental impact statement is completed.

Farmers may develop a comment and get information on how to submit it at

Just in


Boise--The Idaho Legislature met this week for their organizational session. This is when they choose their leadership teams and make committee assignments.

The Senate has a new leadership team (three of the four positions in the majority party were replaced). It was expected that with more conservatives elected to the Senate during the recent election, that the leadership would follow suit and also be more conservative. That didn’t happen. The new Senate leadership team is as follows:

· President Pro-Tem: Senator Brent Hill from Rexburg

· Majority Leader: Senator Bart Davis from Idaho Falls

· Assistant Majority Leader: Chuck Winder from Boise

· Majority Caucus Chair: John McGee from Caldwell

The Minority party leadership team also was changed in the Senate. That team is as follows:

· Minority Leader: Edgar Malepeai from Pocatello

· Assistant Minority Leader: Les Bock from Boise

· Caucus Chair: Michelle Stennett from Ketchum

There were also a few changes in committee chairmanships in Transportation, Local Government and Resources and Environment.

On the House side the Leadership team for the majority party remained the same but there was some shakeup in committee assignments and chairmanships. There are new chairs for the Commerce and Human Resources committee, Health and Welfare, Judiciary Rules and Administration, Transportation and Defense and for the Ways and Means committee. It has been a long time since five different committee chairs were changed without a change in the Leadership.

The Majority leadership team is as follows:

· Speaker of the House: Lawerence Denney from Midvale

· Majority Leader: Mike Moyle from Star

· Assistant Majority Leader: Scott Bedke from Oakley

· Caucus Chair: Ken Roberts from Donnelly

Source: MPI

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Garden News

Canyon County 2011 Master Gardener Program Now Accepting Applicants

CALDWELL--The University of Idaho Extension Master Gardener Program gives gardeners an opportunity to improve their horticultural knowledge and skills and serve their communities. Aspiring Master Gardeners receive comprehensive horticultural training on a variety of topics, and give back to their community through service. To become a Certified Idaho Master Gardener, participants must be able to commit to a minimum of 50 hours of instruction and a minimum of 30 hours of service*. Volunteer time is spent sharing newfound knowledge with others in a number of ways. Academic credit and Continuing Education Units are available from the University of Idaho for this course for additional fees.

2011 Canyon County Master Gardener Course

Dates: January 5 - April 20, 2011 on Wednesday mornings from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm (+ field trips)

Location: Canyon County Extension Office, 501 Main Street, Caldwell, ID

Class Materials and Lab Fee: $95 per individual

For the $95 fee, participants will receive over 50 hours of quality instruction from local, regional and University horticultural professionals, 2 field trips, a soil test, and a copy of the Idaho Master Gardener Handbook. The latest edition of the handbook contains over 500 pages of updated, expert information. Just a few of the topics covered are basic botany, soils, insects, diseases and weeds, vegetables, flowers and herbs, watering, planting and caring for trees and shrubs, lawn care, composting, and plant propagation.

We have a limited number of seats! Applicants will be processed on a first come, first served basis. Applications can be obtained by contacting the Canyon County Extension office (501 Main St., Caldwell) at 208-459-6003 Monday- Friday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm or by emailing Find out more about the Idaho Master Gardener Program at and visit our Canyon County Extension Horticulture web page at

* This year, five seats will also be available for Professional Audit. Professional landscapers, arborists, nursery and garden center staff are eligible to attend the classroom portion of the program without the volunteer component. Price for Professional Audit is $135 and includes the University of Idaho Master Gardener Handbook, field trips and tours.

The University of Idaho provides equal opportunities in education and employment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, disability, or status as a Vietnam-era veteran. In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, those requesting reasonable accommodations may contact Ariel Agenbroad at 501 Main Street, Caldwell, ID or by phone 208-459-6003 or email

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), University of Idaho and Canyon County, cooperating.

Friday, December 3, 2010

71st Annual Meeting wrap-up

Bonneville President Stephanie Mickleson at the House of Delegates on Wednesday--Putnam photo

Farm Bureau Delegates Amend Wolf Policy

BOISE – Delegates to the 71st Annual Idaho Farm Bureau Convention amended the organization’s policy on wolves this week supporting a predator classification.

Delegates expressed frustration and skepticism with the federal government’s wolf management plans but did retain language supporting a wolf hunting season should the predator be removed from the Endangered Species list. The delegation, with representation from 37 county Farm Bureaus also adopted language encouraging Idaho to invoke 10th Amendment state sovereignty rights over wolf management on all state and private lands.

Don and Judi Hale of Blackfoot were awarded the IFBF President’s Cup for their contribution to agriculture over the past three decades. Don Hale passed away last spring. He emerged as a water rights advocate in the 80’s, serving as a water master and eventually serving on the Committee of 9. Judi Hale has a lifetime of involvement in every aspect of Farm Bureau. Judi owns and operates the family farm in Blackfoot.

“I think Farm Bureau gave us the chance to make a name for ourselves, and it gave me a chance to find out who I really was and learn things for myself and be a leader; If Don were around he would be proud,” said Judi Hale.

The Women’s Leadership Committee honored Jerica Meyer of Filer, Tracey Lakey of Soda Springs, Annette Clark of Rigby, Carla Poelstra of Sandpoint and Alicia Rohrbacher of Gem County as Women of the Year for volunteer efforts and accomplishments in their respective Districts.

Stephen Bagley of Victor won top honors in this year’s Young Farmer and Rancher Discussion Meet. Bagley took home a check for $500 from Dodge and a new Polaris four-wheeler for his efforts. In addition he will receive an all-expense paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation Meeting in Atlanta next month where he will compete against peers from throughout the nation. Bagley also won the YF&R Excellence in Agriculture Award this year taking home a new laptop computer and a second $500 check from Dodge. Austin and Maysi Tubbs of Oneida County won the YF&R Achiever Award, also winning a four-wheeler from Polaris, a $500 check from Dodge and a trip to Atlanta.

U.S. Senator James Risch received the Friend of Farm Bureau Award via a teleconference and spoke briefly to the convention.

Congressman-elect Raul Labrador spoke during the first day of the convention. Labrador told Farm Bureau members he doesn’t know much about agriculture but promised to stand-up for farmers on Capitol Hill.

IFBF members also attended educational workshops on social networking, crop management strategies, oilseed production and marketing, water, county coordination planning and several others. The banquet keynote speaker was Matt Rush, a Farm Bureau Young Farmer from Arizona who urged farmers to stay viable, be valuable and most importantly to be visible.

Re-elected to the IFBF State Board of Directors were Mike McEvoy of Canyon County and Mike Garner of Raft River. Carol Guthrie of Inkom was re-elected chair of the IFBF Women’s Leadership Committee and Austin Tubbs of Malad was re-elected chair of the IFBF Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee.

The Idaho Farm Bureau is the largest general farm organization in the state. Find more information at

Parking lot predator

A hungry coyote feasts on a squirrel in the Parking lot--Putnam photo

Heavy Snowfall drives wildlife into the city

Boise--Ten inches of snow in the Boise foothills is driving wildlife from their traditional winter grounds into the urban-interface. Foxes, deer, Coyotes are common sites on the Boise Front as food becomes more and more scarce.

Fish and Game biologists suspect that there is an increase in coyotes in Boise because they’ve had two good years of breeding and survival. It could be a cyclical thing in their population.

They have always been in the Boise area but more may be wandering into town for easy meals and getting used to humans. This coyote was spotted across the alley from the Idaho Farm Bureau Building on 5th and Washington, he chased down a squirrel and in a matter of seconds had breakfast.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

71st Annual Meeting of Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

Don and Judi Hale accept President's Cup
Boise--A tearful Judi Hale accepted the 2010 Presidents Cup on behalf of her late husband Don.

Don Hale passed away last spring, the couple worked 30 years for water rights and are long-time Farm Bureau members. Hale served on the powerful Committee of Nine and was known throughout the state as a fierce advocate of water rights.

"He always made sure that everyone had the water," said Judi Hale, "He was fair from top to bottom, and he loved Farm Bureau and what he was doing."

Judi Hale worked the past five years getting a new Farm Bureau building in Bingham county. "It's my biggest accomplishment to get that new building, everything fell into place this year and its just been great."

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...