Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bonner County Farm Bureau

Bob Smathers photo
Sandpoint--The Bonner County Farm Bureau met August 12th to discuss this weeks Bonner County Fair. They also discussed this year's resolutions and two upcoming county building projects.

Just in---

California Farmer Says Caged Hens Produce Safer Eggs

San Francisco--Animal welfare activists are saying the recall of half a billion eggs from two large Iowa farms shows that the battery cages used in Iowa are linked to the salmonella outbreak and are a threat to food safety in addition to being cruel to hens. However, Arnie Riebli, a Petaluma, Calif., chicken farmer and president of the Association of California Egg Farmers, whose family runs Sunrise Farms, a million-hen operation, emphasizes that cages are safer.

“In a caged environment you are separating the birds from their feces,” Riebli said. “In a cage-free environment you do not do that. You allow the birds to walk in it and you allow the birds to eat it. Believe me, all you’re doing is feeding them bacteria. Would you allow a small child to play in his excrement or eat his excrement?”

San Francisco Chronicle article

Monday, August 30, 2010

Vilsack: Concentration Forces Producers out of Business

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said there are fewer U.S. livestock producers today than 30 years ago and concentration in the meat industry may have forced many of them to leave the business.

Vilsack’s comments came during the Friday public hearing in Fort Collins, Colo., on concentration in the livestock industry. The session, which was the fourth of five to be held this year, drew more than 1,000 livestock producers.

“We have lost hundreds of thousands of (cattle) producers. We see the same thing in hogs, we see the same thing in dairy,” Vilsack said during a Friday press conference after the hearing.

Reuters article

Just in from Washington

Environmental Groups Admit to Losing Climate Change Battle

Washington--The nation's leading environmental groups have admitted losing the Climate Change Battle on Capitol Hill in Washington, because it looks like Congress will not pass a climate change bill this year.

The Washington Post reports that a year ago the groups were at the peak of influence with the House narrowly passing a mammoth cap-and-trade climate change bill. But the sluggish economy and opposition from Farm Bureau and other groups now means that they have apparently lost the fight.

Last week, the environmental groups held two events in Wisconsin to rally support, but neither event drew enough people to fill a high school gym.

Washington Post article

Senator Crapo and Trade

A few words with Senator Mike Crapo on Trade

Boise--Senator Mike Crapo is the Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness. Earlier this week Korea announced plans to drop some restrictions on US beef imports, we talked to the Senator at a roundtable discussion at the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce.

The main topic of discussion was the Korea Free Trade Agreement which could increase exports of U.S. goods to that country by $11 billion and expand markets for two-thirds of our agricultural base,

“Just last month,” Crapo told the roundtable, “Korea opened its market to Idaho potatoes again and Idaho beef exports have nearly doubled over last year.”

Korea announced that it’s dropping some its restriction on US beef imports this week, you raised one of the first voices of concern years ago, a victory for our ranchers?

I’m not a part of the final negotiations on this; but when Korea initially put up its barriers on beef, I and members of Congress called our US Trade Representative and advocated that the US push back aggressively on the disqualification of beef . Basically the reason all of this is happening is that we were able to establish that the US beef industry is the safest in the world. Furthermore, we demonstrated the fact that we could meet any standard any nation could expect ; we exceeded it here and will exceed it anywhere else. Bottomline It’s because of the quality and capability of our beef industry and I expect to see growth.

This has to help a sluggish beef market?

I agree, we cannot quantify it, but I think we should see a dramatic increase in US Beef exports to Korea. According to the U.S. Meat Export Federation the value of U.S. beef exports to South Korea reached $225 million, up 130 percent compared with the first six months of 2009.

Switching gears, on another trade issue, the Mexican tariffs are a little troublesome; NAFTA and trucking are at odds, what can be done to ease that situation?

We‘ve constantly had a conflict between the United States and Mexico on trucking. The argument on the Mexican side is that NAFTA is unfair to their truckers. The response on the U.S. side is that safety standards U.S. truckers have to meet are not being met by the Mexican trucking industry. Its resolving those issues that creates the problem. I believe that what we are seeing Mexico push back in an effort to say, ‘hey we meet the standards, the trade agreement requires.

The details of that question cannot be established by experts, I don’t know the answer as to who is right, I believe the answer is not easy to obtain and quantify I believe much like the beef situation with Korea, it’s the kind of thing that we are ultimately need to resolve.

Do you think Transportation interests need to step back and look at the big picture?

Yes, but I think all Americans need to step back and look at the big picture; because there are circumstances where we could dramatically increase strength of our economy by opening markets for our products and opportunities for export.

On the other side of the coin there are unfair and anti-competitive barriers on US exports that remain in place with other nations and so we got to be vigilant in both areas. No agreement is better than a bad agreement; especially one that locks us onto an unfair playing field.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cost of Living

USDA Forecasts Lowest Food Price Increase Since 1992

USDA forecasts that the consumer price index for food will increase just 0.5 percent to 1 percent this year, the lowest rate since 1992. In last month’s forecast, USDA pegged the food price increase at 1.5 percent to 2 percent.

The lower food price inflation is attributed to a still moribund global economy. Because of the weak U.S. economy, higher commodity prices haven’t translated to higher food prices for consumers."

“The economy is weaker than what I thought in July,” said Ephraim Leibtag, the USDA economist responsible for the forecast. “Food companies are taking a wait-and-see attitude about passing along commodity costs.”

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cascade Fire

Tom Mount watches the airshow from his Cascade Lake home--Steve Ritter photo

Fire Forces Evacuation
Near Cascade--Residents near Tamarack Resort packed up their up their belongings and evacuated their homes Thursday after deputies ordered them to leave.

The terse order came from the Valley County Sheriff's Office who worried that red-flag warnings could push the wildfire burning on West Mountain toward swanky subdivisions at Tamarack but the big winds never materialized last night and homes were safe, at least until this afternoon.

Homeowners in the subdivisions between Hurd and Poison Creek were put under Level 3 evacuation orders, that order is still in effect until unsettled weather stabilizes across Southwest Idaho. Fire forecasters say their biggest concern remains the unpredicable weather which sparked dozens of new, smaller fires in the Boise National Forest in the past 24 hours, wetter cooler weather is helping ease the explosive situation.

The Hurd Fire doubled in size Thursday and has now blackened about 1,000 acres, mostly along the upper mountain range. So far, the fire has not moved down into the valley. The winds are moving north to northeast.
About 700 emergency crews remain on the scene, including 21 crews, 10 helicopters and 21 fire engines. A Level 2 evacuation is in effect for the Tamarack subdivision area. A Level 2 evacuation means people in that area should be ready to leave at a moment's notice.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Undersecretary of Agriculture Visits Idaho

Tanner King and Undersecretary of Agriculture Darci Vetter, Ritter photo

Recovery Act Success Story

Caldwell--Three local ranchers told visiting U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary Darci Vetter how the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 helped them get a start in Idaho Agriculture.

The three young ranchers got loans through the Farm Service Agency and the Recovery Act, Vetter came here first hand to see how the program worked and get ideas for future implementation of stimulus money.

22-year old Tanner King from Marsing received two FSA loans that allowed him to start up a feeder cattle operation. King told Vetter that he tried to take out a conventional loan through his bank in Caldwell but was turned down because of his age.

“They brought good money and I made a profit, cattle did fairly good this year. It wouldn't have been possible without the FSA helping us. It’s hard for kids to get loans and get it going."

King said he'd heard about a new loan program for young farmers and ranchers through the Caldwell Farm Service Agency office in Caldwell. Through the program, he was able to get the money needed to expand his operation. Just a few weeks ago he paid off the loan and made a profit and now has money in the bank to start next year’s operation.

Secretary Vetter came to Caldwell to stress the Obama Administration's “duty to rural areas” she outlined all the projects funded by Recovery Act money. The Undersecretary says that future objectives include things like spending more money on broadband Internet access in rural areas, more funding for rural hospital, fire and police services, improving infrastructure like roads and bridges and adding more funds for farmer disaster relief.

Vetter told the packed FSA office about President Obama’s National Export Initiative and the need to include small- and medium-sized farming operations. But the Undersecretary of Agriculture stressed that she was here to listen and see how Recovery Act money was spent.

"None of this is possible with this funding," said Tanner. This is where agriculture is heading, everyone I know is getting older and its time to bring the young kids up and get going.”

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dairy News

Milk Production up in July

Washington--July 2010 milk production in the 23 states for which USDA reports monthly was 15.3 billion pounds, 3.0 percent above July 2009. June revised production at 15.2 billion pounds, up 2.9 percent from June 2009 - this revision represented an increase of 23 million pounds or 0.2 percent from last month's preliminary production estimate.

States that showed an increase when comparing this July's milk production with a year ago: Arizona up 8.8 percent; California up 4.7 percent; Florida up 3.6 percent; Idaho up 5.2 percent; Indiana up 2.1 percent; Iowa up 1.8 percent; Kansas up 2.5 percent; Michigan up 2.7 percent; Minnesota up 1.4 percent; New Mexico up 3.2 percent; New York up 2.1 percent; Ohio up 3.7 percent; Oregon up 8.3; Pennsylvania up 1.7 percent; Texas up 2.5 percent; Utah up 2.6 percent; Washington up 6.2 percent; and Wisconsin up 2.2 percent. Colorado saw no change.

The number of cows on farms in the 23 major States was 8.37 million head. This is 26,000 head less than July 2009 and 19,000 head more than last month. Production per cow in the 23 major states averaged 1,830 pounds for July, 59 pounds above last year.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Just in from Washington

Jake Putnam photo

Drug Residues in Dairy Cows to be Examined

Washington-- Regulators want to know what veterinarians are doing to avoid drug residues in the meat of slaughtered dairy cows.

The Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine wants to survey dairy cattle veterinarians about their use of the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank, participation in the Dairy Beef Quality Assurance program, knowledge of risk factors associated with drug residues in dairy cattle tissues, and ability to identify the best way to disseminate drug residue avoidance information to dairy industry clients. According to a Federal Register notice filed July 9, the agency is accepting comments on the proposal through Sept. 7.

Shannon Cameron, a spokeswoman for the FDA, said the survey is intended to direct the agency's efforts to promote awareness and provide education about drug residues.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Local news

Beet growers worried
by Justin Corr, KTVB News

NAMPA -- Sugar beet growers and processors are worried they might not have a crop next year.

It all started in 2008, when a number of groups filed a lawsuit challenging the Department of Agriculture's oversight of genetically engineered beets, and the potential that they could contaminate other crops. Last weekend, U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White ruled against the planting of sugar beets, using genetically modified seeds.

"The impacts of this lawsuit will be felt for many years to come," said Jake Putnam with the Idaho Farm Bureau.

Genetically modified seeds make up 95 percent of the seeds used in growing sugar beets, because they're resistant to roundup and are cheaper to grow. But the judge found that windblown pollen from the genetically altered beets could contaminate crops in adjoining fields, like organic crops. People in the industry say, while the decision doesn't affect this year's beets, it creates a problem for 2011.

"We are in a little bit of a conundrum. We don't have enough seed to plant a full crop, with conventional seeds next year," said Duane Grant, Chairman of Snake River Sugar Company.

APHIS, or the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, must complete an environmental impact study before any more genetically engineered seeds can be planted. Grant says he would like that study completed soon because his farmers are working with a deadline.

"Our growers are making planting decisions for next year this fall. We typically order our sugar beet seed in December, and so we're under a pretty tight timeline," said Grant.

Putnam says growers in the Gem State can just plant other crops, but sugar beets are the most lucrative. He also said Idaho sugar processors could be in the most trouble, without anything to process until a decision comes down.

"What will they do? Can they sit idle for a year? We don't know," said Putnam.

And the biggest impact could be on consumers, considering 50 percent of the nation's sugar supply comes from beets.

"That is a huge hunk of sugar. When you take beets out of the equation, then we start running into shortages. We'll start running into problems. And I think we'll start to see food prices increase," said Putnam.

APHIS may adopt interim measures that allow planting of genetically modified sugar beets in 2011. But that would need to happen in a matter of months to give farmers time to plan for next year.

Idaho growers produced more than 5.5 million tons of sugar beets last year, ranking the state second in the nation for sugar beet production.

Trade News

Midyear U.S. agricultural equipment exports up 4 percent compared to 2009
Washington--Exports of U.S. agricultural equipment have increased each quarter of 2010, with midyear shipments totaling $4.9 billion, a gain of 4 percent compared to January-June 2009, according to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM). The AEM off-road equipment manufacturing trade group consolidates U.S. Commerce Dept. data with other sources into global trend reports for members.

“Over the past decade, exports have become a very significant source of business growth for many agricultural equipment manufacturers, and these positive numbers are welcome after the double-digit declines the industry experienced last year,” stated Charlie O’Brien, AEM vice president, agricultural sector. “However, while some economies are rebounding faster than the United States, there is still uncertainty in some regions.”

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Just in from Washington

Vilsack: EPA Signaling Support for 15 Percent Ethanol Rate

Washington--Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the Environmental Protection Agency is signaling it will approve raising the ethanol blend rate in gasoline to 15 percent from the current level of 10 percent.

“I think that the EPA administrator has indicated that we’re going to have E15. I think when she talked about labeling and starting to work on that, that’s an indication we’re going to have it. The question is what vehicles will it apply to and, then, how do we build the industry from there,” Vilsack said at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines Tuesday.

The American Farm Bureau Federation supports raising the ethanol blend rate to a level up to 15 percent.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Just in from Washington

U.S. Agriculture Paying Price for Inaction on Mexican Trucks

WASHINGTON– As first reported yesterday,Mexico’s trade retaliation against the United States is expanding in size and scope due to the U.S. government not meeting obligations to allow Mexican trucks to operate in the United States. Due to this inaction, America’s farmers and ranchers are paying a steep price and the American Farm Bureau Federation is calling for immediate action to correct the matter.

The updated retaliation list published by Mexico includes tariffs that take effect today against U.S. pork, certain types of U.S. cheese, pistachios, a wide range of U.S. fruits and vegetables and other farm and non-farm goods.

“Mexico is one of our best trading partners and allowing this retaliation to continue for a provision we are obligated to meet is simply unacceptable,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “The economic impact from this growing list will be significant to many farmers and ranchers.”

Mexico has taken this action because under NAFTA, Mexican motor carriers are allowed to transport international cargo within the U.S. In 2007, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a demonstration project to begin implementation of the negotiated cross-border trucking provisions. In March 2009, Congress failed to renew the program to allow a limited number of trucks from Mexico to haul loads into the United States beyond a 25-mile zone.

Mexico brought a NAFTA case against the United States on the issue. A ruling found that the United States was not in compliance with its obligations, and Mexico was granted the authority to retaliate if efforts are not taken by the U.S. to comply.

“As we can see from the growing list of agricultural and food items on Mexico’s retaliation list, America’s farmers and ranchers are particularly vulnerable,” Stallman said. “We sell a huge amount of food and farm goods to Mexico, so we have a lot to lose. As the retaliation list continues to grow, it comes at a steep cost to U.S. agriculture.”

Under NAFTA, U.S. food and agriculture exports have more than tripled, climbing from an average $3-4 billion per year prior to NAFTA to more than $12 billion in 2007, making Mexico the second largest export market for U.S. agriculture products.

“The U.S. has made significant strides under NAFTA, resulting in increased export opportunities and the creation of thousands of American jobs,” said Stallman. “But, continued inaction by the U.S. to address our Mexican truck obligations is likely to erode the gains we’ve made.”

NAFTA was fully implemented January 1, 2008. The agreement eliminates tariffs on U.S. agricultural products entering Mexico.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Just in

Culican market--Jake Putnam photo

Mexico Adds 26 Products to Tariff List in Trucking Dispute

Mexico City--Mexico’s Economy Ministry announced Monday it would add 26 U.S. products to it tariff list while removing 16 others. Included in the tariffs are pork, applies, California oranges and pistachios. The levies would affect 54 agricultural products and 45 manufactured ones.

The move by Mexico is seen as a push to get the Obama administration to end the long-running cross-border trucking ban. It is expected to increase friction between the White House that wants to expand trade and many congressional Democrats aligned with unions that support the trucking ban.

Mexico's tariff adds friction another level of friction with the White House. The Obama Administration wants to expand trade opportunities while congressional Democrats back unions that support the trucking ban, citing safety concerns.

The North American Free Trade Agreement back in 2000 proposed a cross-border trucking program but it never happened because of opposition by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. They argued that Mexican trucks are unsafe, that some drivers don't know English and that Mexican authorities don't keep adequate safety records on drivers.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ag Trends

Gem County beets--Steve Ritter photo

Illinois Research Shows Reduced Trust in Modern Farming

Chicago--New consumer research by a coalition of farm organizations confirms that Illinois consumers care about who produces their food, but are misinformed about the family farmers who really grow and raise the majority of food produced in Illinois.

Extensive research from April to July showed the Illinois farmer is still held in substantial esteem by the public. But research also showed consumers have reduced trust in modern farming techniques and profound doubts about how their food is produced.

Farm organizations in the coalition, calling themselves “Illinois Farmers,” include the Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Beef Association, Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Illinois Pork Producers Association and Illinois Soybean Association. The cooperative efforts were announced today, which is Ag Day at the Illinois State Fair.

“We who farm need to change the way we relate to consumers,” said Philip Nelson, a Seneca farmer and Illinois Farm Bureau president. “We must listen to their concerns even more than in the past, and open the gates and doors of our farms to rebuild trust in the way we really farm today.”

Illinois Farm Bureau news release

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Crop News

Canyon County Beet harvest--Putnam photo

Judge Revokes USDA’s Approval of Biotech Sugar Beets

San Francisco--Federal District Court Judge Jeffrey White revoked the Agriculture Department’s approval of Roundup Ready sugar beets Friday because the department had not adequately assessed the environmental consequences before approving them for commercial cultivation.

The decision appears to effectively ban the planting of biotech sugar beets, which make up 95 percent of the crop, until USDA prepares an environmental impact statement and approves the crop again, a process that could take two years. The decision bans planting of biotech sugar beets next spring, but does not impact this year’s crop, which is planted and set for harvest this fall.

Monday's Wall Street Journal reports that the decision won’t disrupt sugar supplies this year, but could cause headaches for food companies after that. Food companies are uncertain where they will source their sugar beets after next year.

The American Farm Bureau Federation is concerned and disappointed with the judge’s ruling. This marks the second time a federal judge has revoked USDA’s approval of a biotech crop. In 2007, a federal court in California halted the planting and sale of Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa seed pending completion of an environmental impact statement. The impact statement is expected later this year.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Just in from Washington

Palouse wheat, Jake Putnam photo

World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates Released

Washington-- The Federal Government just released the latest World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates. Crop highlights of the report include lowered U.S. wheat ending stocks for 2010/2011, global wheat supplies for 2010/2011 are reduced sharply with world production lowered 15.3 million tons, U.S. oilseed production for 2010/2011 is projected at 103.3 tons, up 2.6 million tons from last month, U.S. total rice supplies for 2010/2011 are projected at a record 299.8 million hundredweight, down 9.6 million from last month but up 29.9 million from the previous year.

Total U.S. meat production forecasts for 2010 and 2011 are reduced slightly from last month. Beef production for 2010 is reduced on slightly slower estimated second quarter output and forecast lighter average carcass weights in the third quarter that more than offset slightly higher slaughter. For 2011, beef production is unchanged, but is shifted between quarters as more cattle are expected to be marketed in the first part of the year. Pork production in late 2010 and 2011 is reduced on lower expected imports of live swine from Canada. Forecast poultry meat production for the remainder of 2010 and 2011 is unchanged. Cattle, hog and poultry prices are little changed from last month.

Aug. 12 WASDE report

Friday, August 13, 2010

Just in from Washington

Harvested Canyon County wheat--To Russia with love? Putnam photo

U.S. Stands to Pick Up Wheat Exports Forfeited by Russia

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 12, 2010 – The United States stands to gain a good share of the wheat export market that Russia is forfeiting due to the Russian government’s decision to halt grain exports until the end of the year, according to John Anderson, an economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The Agriculture Department today released its August World Agricultural Supply and Demand estimates or WASDE report. In the report, USDA projected a huge drop in Russian wheat exports for the 2010-2011 marketing year: 3 million metric tons, compared to 18.5 million metric tons, in the 2009-2010 marketing year. Russia decided to exit the grain export market this year because of a serious drought that is reducing crop prospects.

“This is a jaw dropping reduction in exports for Russia,” Anderson said. “And because the United States is expecting a good wheat crop with good stock levels, our farmers stand to take up a big share of wheat exports that would have gone to Russia.”

U.S. all wheat production is estimated at 2.26 billion bushels, up 2 percent from the July forecast and up 2 percent from 2009, according to the latest WASDE report. USDA is also projecting the highest U.S. wheat yield ever at 46.9 bushels per acre, up 1 bushel per acre from July and up 2.5 bushels per acre from last year.

The U.S. stands to pick up export business because of expectations for a good crop and large wheat stocks, at just under 1 billion bushels.

“The United States should pick up almost half of the wheat exports that would have gone to Russia,” Anderson said. “We have wheat when the other major exporters don’t have as much wheat.”

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Around the Nation: Opinion

Dust in the wind-- a way of life on Idaho Farms--Jake Putnam photo

Columnist: ‘EPA Trying to Make Farming Obsolete’

Washington--In an opinion column, Rick Jordahal, associate editor of Pork Magazine, said the Environmental Protection Agency proposal to reduce dust on farms represents “an unprecedented battle to end U.S. farming as we know it.” Through onerous regulations, “EPA is trying single-handed to make farming obsolete,” Jordahl opined.

“The EPA Draft Policy Assessment released last month would set the most stringent regulation of dust in U.S. history. The latest proposal would reduce the acceptable amount of dust to a level twice as stringent as the current standard, which, for agriculture, is already very difficult to attain,” Jordahl wrote.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Foothill fawns

Foothill fawns, originally uploaded by Jake Putnam.

Deer are returning to urban areas, these fawns spent the afternoon in a NW Boise subdivision under the watchful eye of their mother. Fish and Game Officials say they're foraging lush, green grass and looking for water.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Just in from Washington

Jake Putnam photo

Senate Fails to Act on Estate Tax

Washington--The Senate adjourned until Sept. 13 without addressing the estate tax issue.

If Congress fails to act before Jan. 1, estate taxes will be reinstated with a $1 million per person exemption and 55 percent top rate. Farm Bureau is supporting a proposal offered by Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) to phase-in a $5 million exemption and 35 percent tax rate over 10 years. Stepped up basis is included in their proposal.

The bipartisan Lincoln/Kyl amendment offers the most estate tax relief and the best chance for passage with 10 Democrats already on record in support of the proposal from last year’s budget amendment vote. The purpose of Farm Bureau’s “Put Death Taxes to Rest” campaign is to secure the 60 votes needed to pass the Lincoln/Kyl proposal

Monday, August 9, 2010

Gem County Fair

Steve Ritter photo

Gem County Fair Another Success
Emmett--The Gem County fair in Emmett wrapped on Sunday ending one of the best attended fairs over the past few years according to fair officials.

Ben Moulton, above, relaxes on the back of Patches his hereford steer. Moulton is a member of the Trail Blazers 4-H Club of Gem County. Friday is show day for beef animals at the Gem County Fair.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pocatello Farmers Market

Poky Farmers Market, originally uploaded by Jake Putnam.
A Visit to the Pocatello Farmers Market

Pocatell0--"Produce is really starting to come on," said farmer Mike Swore. "We're a good month behind but we're seeing a good variety of produce and will get better in the coming weeks." Corn he says is late and might be ready just before school starts.

Gem County Fair

Steve Ritter photo

Gem County Fair wraps today

Emmett--Audra Vickery shows swine in the 260lb class of Swine Quality at the Gem County Fair. This years fair has seen an increase in entries of swine. Fair continues thru today.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Farmer Markets grow

USDA Lists 6,132 Operational Farmers Markets

Washington--USDA announced today that the 2010 National Farmers Market Directory lists 6,132 operational farmers markets, representing 16 percent growth over 2009, when the agency reported 5,274. The 2010 National Farmers Market Directory results are being released as part of National Farmers Market Week, declared by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, which began Sunday and runs through Saturday.

“Seeing such continued strong growth in the number of U.S. farmers markets indicates that regional food systems can provide great economic, social and health benefits to communities across the country,” said Vilsack. “Farmers markets provide fresh, local products to communities across the country while offering economic opportunities for many producers of all sizes.”

The USDA National Farmers Market Directory can be found at http://apps.ams.usda.gov/FarmersMarkets. Farmers markets can be searched by state, county, zip code and participation in federal nutrition assistance programs.

Friday, August 6, 2010

President's Editorial

Environmental Groups Collect $20 Million in Hush Money

Two environmental groups recently bullied a Texas energy company into donating $20 million to their cause to “save” desert sagebrush habitat by agreeing not to pursue legal action against a proposed natural gas pipeline. The pipeline is planned to cross southwest Wyoming, northern Nevada and southern Oregon.

The agreement was praised by some as a breakthrough in environmental protection. We call it extortion. Our biggest fear is the money will be used to put ranch families out of business and cripple rural communities throughout the West.

In our view the El Paso Corporation, based in Houston, Texas, didn’t have a clue who they were dealing with when they agreed to set up a $20 million conservation fund to be spent by the Oregon Natural Desert Association and the Western Watersheds Project (WWP). The WWP, headed by Jon Marvel of Hailey, with their oft-stated goal of ending public lands grazing, is required in the 10-year agreement to spend the money in counties and adjacent counties wherein the pipeline will run for the first five years. After that they can spend the money wherever they want.

However ham-fisted the agreement may seem, for the El Paso Corporation it’s a business decision. Caring more about being tied up in court than the ranch families who earn a living in the region, or the rural communities they support, El Paso’s suits are betting it will cost less to hand over the cash now than to be tied up in a lengthy court battle. What they didn’t foresee is other environmental groups jumping into the fray.

Shortly after the agreement was announced, the enlightened Center for Biological Diversity, another Oregon green group, smelled the gravy and petitioned federal regulators to withdraw permits for the Ruby Natural Gas Pipeline. They claim the project could harm two species of suckers, the Colorado pikeminnow and Lahontan cutthroat trout.

At this point it looks like El Paso will have to pony up another $20 million or so for fish protection if they want to stay out of court. Who’s next is anybody’s guess. If the folks down in Houston aren’t yet wondering what got them into this dim-witted predicament, it’s probably time to start asking some questions in the board room.

Negotiating with environmental groups is rarely, in fact almost never, a good idea. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Almost across the board they lack integrity. They don’t live up to the agreements they make, yet they expect everyone else to. Marvel is a prime example of this with his recent grazing lease fiasco in Custer County and countless other incidents.

El Paso Corp. and its investors are learning this the hard way but they should have known better than to negotiate with entities that bring nothing to the table except the threat of a lawsuit.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Just in from Washington

Washington--After setting a record high in 2008, U.S. farm production costs dropped $20 billion in 2009 - the first major decline in nearly a quarter century, according to the Farm Production Expenditures 2009 summary released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The average production expenditures per farm fell 6.4 percent in 2009, from $140,075 to $131,137. Total U.S. expenditures totaled $287 billion, down from $307 billion in 2008.

Falling gas prices were a major factor behind the decline in overall farm expenses, leading to decreases in the costs of fuels, fertilizer and agricultural chemicals. The report shows that farmers and ranchers spent $12.4 billion on fuels in 2009, down 22.5 percent from the previous year. The average U.S. farm operation spent $5,658 on fuel in 2009, $1,642 less than in 2008.

Total fuel expenditures nationwide included $7.22 billion for diesel, down 26.8 percent from 2008; $2.43 billion for gasoline, down 19.3 percent; $1.95 billion for LP gas, down 3.9 percent; and $800 million for other fuels, down 27.3 percent.

Overall, 2009 farm production expenditures decreased in all major categories. Average feed costs decreased 4 percent, to $20,533 per farm; average costs for farm services decreased 4.2 percent to $16,609 per farm; and the average costs for fertilizer, lime and soil conditioners decreased 10.7 percent to $9,171 per farm.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Just in from Pocatello

Well-Testing Offered in Cassia, Minidoka Counties

POCATELLO — The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation is offering domestic water well and spring testing in Cassia and Minidoka Counties starting August 18th.

“This is a great benefit for our members; it gives them peace of mind knowing what’s in their drinking water,” said IFBF Project Coordinator Chuck Garner. “Nitrate is a naturally occurring element in ground water, and those levels can change from year to year. Cities test all the time; it’s just a good idea to have the well water tested.”

The IFBF first initiated well testing back in 1990 to provide for the health and safety of our members. To date more than 5,300 wells were sampled in 27 Idaho counties. “The last time we did Cassia/Minidoka counties we had more than 170 samples,” said Garner. “We’re hoping to better that number this time around.”

Landowners in Cassia and Minidoka Counties can buy sample bottles at the Cassia/Minidoka Farm Bureau office at 444 E. 5th North in Burley starting on Wednesday, August 18th up to the following Wednesday for $15 per sample. The Analytical Laboratory at the University of Idaho will run the tests and provide results for those taking part in the program.

Well owners will bring their sample bottles back to the Farm Bureau offices on August 25th. “We want all the samples collected that morning,” said Garner. “The people taking park will have an instruction sheet with their test bottle, things like how to draw the water, letting it run so we can get a true sample. We’ve instructed them to put the sample on ice for more accuracy. If the procedures are followed we can get a very accurate sample.”

Background: The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation initiated a Well Testing program in 1990. A total of 5,353 well samples (including 1,991 quality assurance samples) have been collected from private wells in 27 Idaho counties.

Wheat prices looking good

Steve Ritter photo
Idaho Wheat Producers hopeful

Chicago--Unusually hot, dry weather that scorched crops in Russia, Ukraine and western Europe pushed a 38 percent rally in wheat prices last month. According to the USDA, U.S. wheat is trading at the highest premium over corn since April 2008 at export terminals in New Orleans.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Just in from Milk Producers of Idaho

Near Burley, Idaho--Putnam photo

Washington--The Immigration Policy Center on Wednesday released its complete series of 50 state fact sheets which highlight the political and economic power of immigrants, Latinos and Asians in every state of the union.

Here are the results for how immigrants affect Idaho:

As workers:

— Immigrants comprised 7.2 percent of the state’s workforce in 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

— Unauthorized immigrants comprised roughly 3.1 percent of the state’s workforce (or 25,000 workers) in 2008, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center.

— If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Idaho, the state would lose $428.8 million in economic activity, $190.4 million in gross state product, and approximately 3,060 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time, according to a report by the Perryman Group.

As students:

— Idaho’s 2,147 foreign students contributed $42.6 million to the state’s economy in tuition, fees, and living expenses for the 2008-2009 academic year, according to the NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

— In Idaho, 24.6 percent of foreign-born persons who were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2008 had a bachelor’s or higher degree, compared to 13.7 percent of noncitizens. At the same time, only 27.6 percent of naturalized citizens lacked a high-school diploma, compared to 58.7 percent of noncitizens.

— The number of immigrants in Idaho with a college degree increased by 94.4 percent between 2000 and 2008, according to data from the Migration Policy Institute.

As entrepreneurs and consumers:

— The 2009 purchasing power of Latinos in Idaho totaled $2.5 billion — an increase of 527.4 percent since 1990. Asian buying power totaled $650.6 million — an increase of 477.4 percent since 1990, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth.

— Idaho’s 2,775 Latino-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $351.8 million and employed 3,149 people in 2002, the last year for which data is available. The state’s 1,111 Asian-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $283.9 million and employed 2,837 people in 2002, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Summer Rodeo Season

Adams County rodeo, Steve Ritter photo

Rodeo Season Comes to Council

Council--The Adams County rodeo wrapped up over the weekend in Council, Idaho. This one of several Idaho Cowboys Association rodeos held across the state, this saddle bronc rider bucked out last Saturday night.

Economy improving

New York--According to the New York Times, August got off with a strong start on Wall Street this afternoon with a surge insiders say is fueled by positive european bank earnings news. Also contributing to the surge: American manufacturing that picked up significant ground in July.

Also contributing to the wave of optimism is Standard & Poor's index of 500 stocks climbed more than 24 points, or 2.2 percent, while the Dow industrials gained 208.44 points, or 1.99 percent, to close at 10,674.38.

U.S investors are seeing positive signs in the Institute for Supply Management's survey, which fell less than expected in July, and in an unexpected rise in construction spending reported for June.

Potato News

Lay’s Hits the Road with Traveling Farm Tour

New York--Lay's potato chips is bringing its farm-to-table message to its customers with a mobile greenhouse “farm” that is traveling to New York, Los Angeles and four other cities.Visitors to the 70-foot-long, 10-foot-wide and 14-foot-high traveling greenhouse can see potato plants along with other interactive displays. Consumers can find out about the tour via Facebook, Twitter and any local media coverage.

Texas Potato farmer Jack Wallaceis travelling with the exhibit. He's one of the mainstays of Lay's ongoing chip ads and on hand for the New York City stop. Wallace, with his father Big Jack, was also featured in the Fiesta Bowl TV ads in January, meant to help draw out the story of their potato chips by connecting their image to the folks running their potato-growing operations around the country. No word yet from Lays if they plan on adding an Idaho potato farmer.

Congress considers Farm Bill this week

Washington--House Ag Chairman Mike Conaway finally get the House farm bill to the Senate this week, but it all depends on House Republic...